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4 Burning Questions: Will a 4-Man Broadcast Booth Work for NBC?

Are non-chartered NASCAR teams a bad thing for the sport?

Two weeks ago, a major debate erupted on Twitter that you may or may not have missed. And that’s somewhat fair if you did; it wasn’t a matter of life or death, and last month was already a pretty big month for NASCAR between the reports of the Frances looking to sell it off and the restrictor plate package in the All-Star Race.

Still, it’s a topic worth discussion and it hasn’t aged badly since it first came up.

In the week before the Coca-Cola 600, former Team Xtreme owner John Cohen announced his return to NASCAR with a new entry called NY Racing Team and became the 41st car entered for the race at the time. Rob Kauffman, a minority owner in Chip Ganassi Racing and the president/founder of the RTA (as well as a former partner in Michael Waltrip Racing), voiced his displeasure on Twitter.

When pressed on the issue by a fan, Kauffman responded with:

Putting aside everything else he said, let’s make one thing crystal clear: there’s no way that the money being used to pay non-chartered teams can create a worthwhile retirement/disability fund. That would take millions upon millions of dollars, and there’s no way NASCAR is paying that much money to the non-charter teams.

In fact, it’s doubtful NASCAR is paying these teams much of anything. If they were, we’d see more teams other than StarCom Racing wheeling out second cars to take up spots on the grid.

Kauffman claims that teams shouldn’t just come out and compete against the Dallas Cowboys. But his idea that team owners follow the same ladder that drivers do just isn’t practical. The only race team that won their first Cup race in the past 10 years that fielded notable XFINITY Series/ARCA teams before they competed on the Cup level was JTG Daugherty Racing.

No, it turns out that the best way to be a team owner in NASCAR is to make a fortune somewhere else and then start a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team. Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs and most of the rest of the owners started their stock car race teams in Cup. Lack of experience in other NASCAR series didn’t stop them from succeeding at the sport’s highest level. Kauffman himself entered Cup this way by buying into MWR.

Should the entire Cup field be of chartered teams? It doesn’t really matter. A team needs one to make money, but with the value of the charters getting lower and lower seemingly every season with how many spring up on the open market after Homestead-Miami Speedway, a team doesn’t need to jump through that many hurdles to get one.

Is it time for Ryan Newman to panic?

The good news for Ryan Newman is that he isn’t completely out of the playoff picture just yet — and he won’t be as long as he’s still in the top 30 in points come Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But the bad news is, well, everything else.

Taking his first two part-time seasons out of the equation, Newman is on pace for career lows in average finish, lead-lap finishes, and DNFs. His lone top-10 finish outside of the two restrictor plate races was 10th at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This is a team that has been prized for consistency; it almost won a championship not too long ago without winning any races. But now look at it.

The No. 31 will need to take some risks at the more strategy heavy racetracks coming up on the calendar, like the two road courses or the other Pocono Raceway race. Unless there’s a major turnaround over the next few weeks, it’s unlikely it’ll be able to point its way back into the postseason and is instead going to need another surprise win to get in.

Who are the contenders at Michigan International Speedway?

Kyle Larson is really good at Michigan. Like, really, really good.

Larson is riding a streak of three straight victories at the 2-mile track just a couple of hours away from Detroit. In that same timeframe, Larson also won a race at Michigan’s sister track, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

There will be some contenders on Sunday besides Larson, however. Chase Elliott had two great runs there last year, finishing second in the first race and eighth in the second. Martin Truex Jr. contended for wins in both of those races, but just couldn’t close the deal against Larson. Also, Brad Keselowski had a stage win in the second race.

And of course, the two safest bets in the field this week will once again be Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Will four-man TV booths become the norm in NASCAR?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been doing a lot of press over the past week for NBC’s coverage of NASCAR, which begins next month at Chicagoland Speedway. It had been a mystery as to just what his role would be at NBC, as, after all, the network already employs Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton to analyze the race in the booth with lap-by-lap announcer Rick Allen.

Earnhardt finally confirmed both his role and the fate of everybody else on Twitter a few days ago.

This seems like it’s going to be a complete mess. There’s going to be four people trying to talk over one another to cover the race, and the NBC booth in general has been a headache in recent years because Letarte apparently believes the best way to get his point across is to scream into his microphone.

Three-person booths in racing have long been the norm, and the FOX formula of having a former crew chief and a former driver was a major success for years as both analysts could give different viewpoints without being completely contrary in nature. Now, however, FOX has two drivers who have to take opposite views on certain issues, even when the answer is obvious. And unlike FOX, which moved its crew chief away from the main booth but not off the coverage entirely, NBC has decided to just have three different analysts with three usually wildly different viewpoints trying to share mic time with Allen, who unlike the other three has to actually call the race.

Hopefully Advil takes a cue from all this and sponsors somebody in the coming weeks.

About Michael Finley

Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

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15 comments

  1. I watch the old video’s on YOUTUBE of races. The people in the booth knew it was not about them but the racing. A real contrast against today’s mindset of the booth being the show and spoon feeding us caca that they are told to say. Insulting actually.

  2. NBC has the worst announcers in the booth, bar none. Letarte doesn’t just talk loud, he talks non-stop. He talks and talks, but NEVER says anything original. He is worst in that regard than Rick Allen, who is also pretty bad. I have hit the mute while Letarte is talking, waited a few laps, then turned the sound back on only to see that Letarte is STILL talking about the SAME thing. Letarte makes be look back on Jackie Stewart and Sam Posey with fondness. And for some reason, Burton and Letarte seem to try to one-up each other for wordiness. At least DW’s nonsense is usually brief. NBC are you listening? Of course not – they probably hit the mute button just like the rest of us.

  3. Hard to top FOX but NBC evidently has the same dumb producers. Another nail in nascar tv decline.

    As for newman, age. He is riding out the deal and making bucks but is ready to go home

    Letarte is possibly worse than dw. How do these networks come up with burton and letarte? Both terrible!!

  4. Phil Allaway

    Apparently, the four-man booth is not going to be full-time. Definitely expect it at Daytona next month, but who knows what the whole setup will look like for the rest of NBC’s portion of the season. My guess is that Earnhardt Jr. and Letarte will have somewhat similar viewpoints knowing that Letarte was Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief for a number of years. Still think you’re going to see a lot of learning on the job from Earnhardt Jr. starting in a few weeks.

    I’ve already voiced my personal opinions on the setup earlier this week. They’re not dissimilar to what Michael says above.

  5. Get Alan Bestwick back to covering NASCAR races. When he was on MRN calling the race,it was if you were at the track he did such a great job. Put him and carl edwards in the booth and t.v. ratings would soar. Two guys who know about racing and don’t have to use gimmicks like the Moron Bros. on Fox.

  6. God created the Mute Button for a reason. And that reason is TV sports broadcasts. Dale Jr. in the booth is just another reason to keep fresh batteries on hand for the remote. I haven’t “listened” to a NASCAR broadcast in years.

  7. Racing in Mississauga

    The major reason for Newman’s problems this year is that the new Camaro body has been a relative failure except for the occasional good result. The Fords and Toyotas are essentially dominant. Expect GM to pressure NASCAR to even things up by giving a wink and nod in inspection to Chevy teams for multiple changes in a kind of “bodystyle debris caution” for which NASCAR is (in)famous.

    • i can’t believe they’ve gone this long without the wink and nod. gm has got to be unhappy with results, or maybe they just don’t care any longer.

  8. You’re complaining about Letarte screaming with Rick Allen in the booth?

  9. NBC could make the new crew work if they get rid of Rick Allen. All he does is repeat what just been said. Starts every sentence with “Again, once again, and again.” Worst race announcer EVER.

  10. Four in the booth is two too many. Ken and Ned managed just fine but they knew what they were doing.

  11. The only one I respect in regards to “retiring” in this present day is Cousin Carl. He has truly retired. The likes of GOONYER and others posturing peacocks make me sick. Their integrity is zero. IMO. Stay home, be with your families. The very grind you used an excuse for (retiring), you are back at it in some for or another. EGO, is thy name!

    • Yeah NASCAR is the only sport where ex-players take jobs as TV analysts, owners, coaches, managers, front office workers, etc.. In most other sports retired players just disappear never to be heard of again.
      BTW, most athletes retire because of age and/or injury. While being tired of the grind may be part of the reason, it’s not the main reason.

      Dumbest comment ever.

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