NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. set for next step of career with Sunday's Super Bowl LII coverage
NASCAR fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. begins his career at NBC as part of the coverage team of Super Bowl LII on Sunday night.
It’s part of the next step of Earnhardt’s post-racing career and the NBC Universal package that was announced last summer that will allow the former driver to be part of other NBC sports programming in addition to movie and television roles on the Peacock network. But, the big question remains, how will NBC utilize him?
Will he be able to transition from one sport to another, such as former NFL wide receiver Ahmad Rashad when he became one of NBC’s most authoritative sideline reporters and analyst on its NBA telecasts from 1990 to 2003? Or, will he be another lighthearted and offbeat broadcaster such as Rutledge Wood?
Earnhardt, who will be a regular on NBC’s coverage of NASCAR later this summer, will also be part of NBC’s Winter Olympic Coverage from PyeongChang, South Korea from February 9 to February 25.
“Dale is a star on the racetrack and off, and we are excited to have him join the NBC team,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC and NBCSN “It will be fun to have him be a part of our coverage of the Super Bowl, and we are looking forward to watching him explore a new world with the Winter Olympics.”
If NBC utilizes Earnhardt properly, his personality can serve as a bridge from mainstream sports back to NASCAR as a popular former driver and leading personality.
“Well, it just depends on the role really, and whether it’s a prominent role or is it just something at the pregame at 2:00 on Sunday afternoon,” Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin said last week during the NASCAR Media tour. “I mean, it just depends. I’d like to see what they’re going to use him for.
“I would have said two, three years ago there’s no way Dale Jr. should be on TV. But he changed, and he really has gotten so much better at it. When you think about Jeff Burton and those guys, I never thought they would be good at what they do, and lo and behold, they go through an off season of training, and they sound great on TV. I suspect that’s going to be the same thing with Dale Jr.”
Considering the huge audience that will tune into the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, to have a former NASCAR driver as part of the broadcasting team should pay some benefit to elevating NASCAR into public awareness. But Hamlin remains skeptical.
“You would think it helps, but it’s not an active driver,” Hamlin said. “This is a former driver. So you have to get people excited about current drivers, not former ones.”
According to NBC Sports, Earnhardt will participate in NBC’s Super Bowl Pre-Game Show. While in Minneapolis, Earnhardt will experience the celebration surrounding this year’s winter weather Super Bowl, and share his great sense of adventure, as he takes part in some of the outdoor events and activities taking place in town leading up to kickoff.
Later in February, Earnhardt will travel to PyeongChang, where he will explore the culture, people, and traditions in South Korea, and experience Olympic competitions first hand. Earnhardt will visit the speed skating venue at Gangneung Ice Arena, and through the lens of a racer will view the speed, close contact, and tight turns on the short track speed skating oval, which so closely mirror Earnhardt’s racing days and nights at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I’m excited to get to work with my new NBC family,” Earnhardt said. “Beginning with two huge events like the Super Bowl and Olympics, right out of the gate, should be quite the introduction. I’m looking forward to raising the profile of NASCAR, and all that we’re going to be doing during the 2018 season.”
Following a recent invite on social media from his new friends on the U.S. bobsled team, including U.S. bobsled team pilot Nick Cunningham, Earnhardt will also travel to Alpensia Sliding Center, where he will test the true speed of the bobsled track and live out his post-retirement dream of riding in an Olympic bobsled.
“We can’t wait to get Dale’s take on what is one of the most compelling aspects of the Winter Games – sports that offer a mix of speed with the prospect of danger, an equation that he knows very well,” said Jim Bell, President, NBC Olympics Production and Programming. “But instead of the turns at Daytona, it’s the downhill, the luge, and the short track oval. And I think he will have something unique to offer about the need for speed on snow and ice.”