Well, we now are into the beginning of summer, and today marks the midway point in the calendar year. It also marks the midway point, at least in months, into the NASCAR season. We started the journey in mid-February, and already we are looking at finishing out June. For some reason this year has gone by like a thunderstorm on a humid afternoon.
The difference is, the thunderstorm passes, and the humidity immediately increases. With NASCAR, as each race passes, the pressure increases but it doesn’t reach full intensity until we are nearing fall.
With the start of summer, it also means the start of the other network of broadcasting.
Hello, NBC, and welcome back. Last week, we got to say farewell to Darrell Waltrip, who’s probably on a Sunday drive right now with Stevie in that new Buick convertible he received. This week, we get to welcome back an enormous four-man booth, but one that I actually found a huge asset, probably more than even I expected after its introduction a year ago.
Adding Dale Jr. to the booth, especially when you have him right beside the crew chief that he honestly had the most success and fun with, Steve Letarte, and you have probably the most direct insight into how a driver and crew chief will discuss a race, from adjustments to pre-race changes, and sometimes into the arguments that can take place when frustration hits a boiling point.
You also add in Jeff Burton, the “Mayor” if you will of NASCAR even though he’s not a driver any longer, and it’s the best insight you can get in NASCAR.
No offense intended to FOX, as when they added Jeff Gordon to their booth in 2016 it was a fresh take on an already excellent production, but that is one advantage NBC has. Two different drivers in the booth, but two different roles. Burton is a play-by-play guy, while Junior seems to be more of the mindset and insight analyst. That’s not to say he isn’t good at the play-by-play, which he is, but that’s a unique way NBC is able to differentiate themselves in broadcasting.
However, no matter who seems to be the one broadcasting, I still get a sense we’re looking at the “Big Two” organizations continuing to dominate.
As a few other writers have said, there’s Penske Racing, there’s Joe Gibbs Racing, and then there’s everyone else. There have been 17 races thus far this season. Only one, that being Talladega, was won by a team outside those two camps. Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. have accumulated those 16 wins, with the lone exception being Chase Elliott.
Last year it was all about stopping the “Big Three” from being victorious, and it wasn’t until Homestead when those three drivers were kept from getting the one victory all of them wanted the most.
Right now, the way to victory lane is to defeat the “Big Two”, and that means putting five drivers in the rearview mirror rather than just three. With the upcoming schedule, there’s not many opportunities for that to happen. We are at Chicagoland this week, then Daytona, and Kentucky. Even Daytona is not as much a wild card because we all know how good Penske has been at the superspeedways, even with the new package.
Sunday marks officially the 18th race of the 2019 season, meaning it will conclude the first half of the year, and will leave us with eight races before the championship field is narrowed down, but the rest of the field needs to start digging in now before those organizations really get a stranglehold on the sport.
This year, there is no comparison, two teams are leading the pack. Maybe, just maybe, the new broadcast team will allow us all to see a new winner or two over the next several months.
Let’s kick it…Chi-Town style.