Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his first experience as a full-time NBC Sports broadcaster was “fun” as he left Chicagoland Speedway.
Earnhardt took to Periscope for almost six minutes Sunday night to talk about his first weekend in his new job, where he worked alongside former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Steve Letarte in one booth as Rick Allen and Jeff Burton also called the race action in another.
“I knew it would be fun because broadcasting that I’ve done before was pretty good, enjoyable,” Earnhardt said. “First off, I was super nervous. There’s some things going on up in that booth that, man, are way over my head. The first pit cycle under green and different strategies, I was lost, and I’m usually in the car, and I don’t see all that playing out. Thankfully, I was watching Steve and Jeff Burton, even as a driver, I was so surprised at how well they talked everybody through that. Including me.”
Just a few months removed from being a driver, Earnhardt expressed how he understood what the drivers were going through as they raced in extreme heat on a slick track. And he credited the racing action for giving the booth something to talk about and making their jobs easy.
“They gave us an amazing race the entire day. Obviously, the finish was super exciting. I never thought Kyle Larson would get to him,” Earnhardt said of the frantic late-race push to close on Kyle Busch. “Anybody can broadcast that kind of race.
“I knew I was going to get along great with my teammates, so not surprised had a blast with them and we’re going to have a good time this year. I got a lot to learn, and there’s a lot more I can provide, and as I get better and understand some of the things that are going on up there I’m sure things will continue to get better.”
Among the action Earnhardt called over the weekend was the Xfinity Series race, two Cup Series practice sessions and qualifying. He expressed how calling each activity is different, and that the race provides natural content to talk about.
“First broadcast was a big hit I feel like and got to hand it to the race for giving us that opportunity to broadcast it,” Earnhardt said. “If it’s not a great race, I don’t know what we’re talking about right now, might be a different conversation. But I’m happy. I hope everybody enjoyed it.”
Although he had not yet had a chance to see the feedback on his debut, Earnhardt said he’d been told it was positive. It was his excitement over the last lap between Larson and Busch, though, that had many talking on social media.
“Yeah slide job, I wanted Rick to say it! Slide job, say slide job! That’s what happening,” laughed Earnhardt. “Whew, man, I love racing. I’ve been such a fan all my life, so I’m getting paid to go watch races. How about that? Pretty damn awesome.”