|NASCAR on TNT|
Wally Dallenbach, Jr.
|Opening theme||""T.N.T."" by AC/DC|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||Countdown to Green: 60 minutes
NASCAR on TNT: 3.5-4.5 hours (depending on race length)
|Original run||July 22, 2001 – present|
Prior to 2001, Turner Sports' home for NASCAR was TNT's sister station, TBS. TBS aired side by side coverage during commercials during the 2000 UAW-GM Quality 500 in Charlotte. Booth announcers/analysts included Ken Squier, Buddy Baker, and Dick Berggren. After TBS made a host/booth switch, Allen Bestwick became the lap-by-lap announcer with Baker and Berggren in the booth for TBS' 2000 coverage at Lowe's and Pocono while Squier moved to a host position, the same position he had held at CBS since the start of the 1998 NASCAR season. During this time, TBS' coverage was limited as the television coverage of NASCAR was split between TBS, TNN, CBS, ABC, ESPN, and (later) NBC. TBS typically covered both Charlotte races, one of two races held at Pocono, and several NASCAR Busch Series races.
When NASCAR's new broadcasting rights contract was signed in 1999, which included FOX, FX, and NBC, TBS was to keep its rights to NASCAR by serving as NBC's cable partner. The deal was to begin with the 2001 NASCAR season. On March 27, 2001, Turner elected to move the race coverage to sister network TNT as part of its new branding and "We Know Drama" slogan. (A potential conflict also existed with TBS' coverage of Atlanta Braves baseball games, which were a staple of the TBS lineup for years and which often were aired on weekends at times that NASCAR often held its races, either in the early afternoon or evening.)
TNT aired its first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race under the new contract at New Hampshire International Speedway in July 2001. Both networks shared the broadcast team of Allen Bestwick, Benny Parsons, and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. in the booth and Bill Weber, Marty Snider, Dave Burns, and Matt Yocum on pit road, as well as the same production graphics and music. The only differences were the placement of the network's logo on the graphics package and different colored pit reporter fire suits.
TNT was treated as the secondary broadcaster during its relationship with NBC due to the fact of it being a cable rather than broadcast network. NBC's portion of broadcast included almost all of the prestigious races during their half of the year (with the exception of the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington, the fourth leg of NASCAR's Grand Slam, in 2001 and 2002, and the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond from 2004–2006, when the race was the last race of the regular season under the season format). The idea was that ratings would most certainly be higher for NBC's coverage of a given race next to TNT's due to a broadcaster's penetration. TNT was given most of the Busch Series schedule except for major races, then covered by NBC. Night races were almost always covered by TNT except for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona, which aired on NBC in years that they had the rights to it, and (later) the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte when that race was moved from Sunday afternoons to Saturday nights. Otherwise, following the fall Richmond race, TNT's Cup Series coverage was limited to one, two or three races (including the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at Rockingham, which they covered from 2001–2003).
It was generally understood anytime a major news story needed to be covered by NBC its NASCAR coverage would be switched over to TNT. This occurred only once: the October 7, 2001 race at Lowe's Motor Speedway was interrupted during the prerace show when President George W. Bush announced the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. NBC covered the news for the entire afternoon, and the entire race was shown on TNT.
TNT also would broadcast any NBC-scheduled races that were postponed by rain until the following day, much like FX would do for Fox during this contract (this is no longer applicable as Fox airs rain-delayed races the following day, since Fox has no daytime programming, unlike ABC, CBS and NBC).
The TNT/NBC partnership broke off when NBC chose not to bid for the NASCAR contract when it expired in 2006.
TNT, however, elected to make a bid for rights in the new television contract and was successful in retaining its coverage, joining Fox and the ESPN family of networks in a contract that runs until 2014. Under the terms of said contract TNT gained broadcast rights to six June and July races, which it calls the NASCAR on TNT Summer Series. TNT's six races are currently the Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway, the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, the annual July 4 weekend Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, and the New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Unlike in the previous contract TNT was not able to procure rights to any Nationwide Series races, as ESPN successfully bid to be the exclusive carrier of the series. However, TNT became the exclusive home for the Coke Zero 400, much like Fox had become exclusive home for the Daytona 500 (in the previous contract, in addition to the races they were contracted to air, Fox and NBC alternated coverage of the two races at Daytona, with Fox airing the Daytona 500 and NBC the Pepsi 400 in odd-numbered years, and vice-versa in even-numbered years).
Bill Weber stayed on as TNT's NASCAR voice and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. was retained to be his color commentator. Originally, Benny Parsons was to join the two in the booth, but he died from lung cancer prior to the beginning of the 2007 season. Kyle Petty elected to take time off from his driving duties to take the position in the broadcast booth. Marty Snider and Matt Yocum returned as pit reporters. To replace Allen Bestwick and Dave Burns, both of whom went to ESPN following the 2006 season, and Larry McReynolds joined them as a roving reporter in the pit lane TNT promoted Ralph Sheheen and Lindsay Czarniak to full-time pit reporter positions; previously both of them served as substitutes or for stand-alone Busch Series races that conflicted with the Cup Series schedule.
From 2007-2009, TNT's pre-race coverage began with a one hour show called NASCAR on TNT Live! This was followed by a 30 minute version of Countdown to Green, followed by the race itself. The pre-race coverage was changed in 2010 to a simple one-hour version of Countdown to Green due to NASCAR's new policy of earlier start times. Since 2007, each pre-race broadcast (whether it be on NASCAR on TNT Live or Countdown to Green) featured "The Pride of NASCAR" segment which featured an interview with a historical NASCAR figure. Some examples include Richard Petty (interviewed by his son Kyle), AJ Foyt, and Mario Andretti.
One of the most popular features of TNT's coverage is RaceBuddy, a free online application on NASCAR.com that allows fans to watch the race through their choice of several camera angles. In 2009, Jim Noble was added as the RaceBuddy-only pit reporter.
On July 7, 2007 during the Pepsi 400, TNT used for the first time a new broadcast format called "Wide-Open Coverage". The race broadcast was moved to the top of the screen, with all scoring graphics placed in the bottom of the screen. The race was also broadcast with limited commercial interruption; only three green flag laps took place during commercials during the entire broadcast, because of cable and satellite television providers having several minutes every hour to air local ads, bypassing TNT entirely. All other commercials were aired in the lower third of the screen, similar to what is used by the IndyCar Series but with a significantly larger window for the race coverage. Most of these commercials featured a special ad for that race, followed by their traditional ad. For each Daytona race since, TNT has featured the Wide-Open Coverage format. In 2009 and 2010, no green flag laps were missed.
The 2010 race also featured a 3-D broadcast on some cable/satellite providers and on NASCAR.com.
There were some technical issues with TNT's final Sprint Cup race of the season at Chicagoland when the picture and sound went out during the prerace show, causing the invocation and the national anthem to not be televised.
During the broadcast of the 2008 LifeLock.com 400, Larry McReynolds performed a magic trick, "cutting" Marc Fein in half while green flag racing was taking place on the racetrack. This came at the dismay and outrage of many fans and viewers.
TNT also missed the winning pass of the 2008 Coke Zero 400 when a last lap crash involving Michael Waltrip took out several cars. When it was all said and done, TNT panned over to Carl Edwards, who prematurely celebrated his victory, thinking he had the lead when the caution came out. Because the crash occurred on the last lap, the field is frozen at the moment the caution came out and NASCAR reviews the finishing order by using video replays and scoring loop data. Those replays all showed Kyle Busch as the leader when the caution came out; Busch was declared the winner of the Coke Zero 400.
TNT and NBC shared the broadcast team of Allen Bestwick on lap-by-lap and Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. on color commentary. Dave Burns, Matt Yocum, Marty Snider, and Bill Weber were the pit reporters, with Weber hosting the Countdown to Green pre-race show.
When TNT would broadcast NASCAR Busch Series races that conflicted with the Winston/NEXTEL cup races, other pit reporters, such as Glenn Jarrett, Mark Garrow, Ralph Sheheen, and Lindsay Czarniak would join the coverage.
In 2004, Weber became the lap-by-lap announcer for two races as Bestwick recovered from a leg injury he suffered while playing hockey.
In 2005, Bestwick and Weber traded positions. However, Bestwick would occasionally do lap-by-lap for Busch races that conflicted with the schedule for the primary series.
For 2007, TNT went solo, covering six races that started with the Pocono 500 on June 10. Weber and Dallenbach returned to the broadcast booth. After Parsons' death from cancer, he was replaced by Kyle Petty, who took time off from his driving duties at Petty Enterprises to do so. Weber also continued to host the pre-race shows, NASCAR on TNT Live and Allstate Countdown to Green, joined by Marc Fein and Fox Sports' Larry McReynolds (producer Barry Landis also came over from Fox for these six races). Like the other networks, TNT has adopted a "cut-away" car (provided by Ford) that McReynolds uses occasionally on the telecasts. Also during the race, Fein and McReynolds contribute to the coverage from a large infield studio that revolves from a point several feet above ground level.
Marty Snider and Matt Yocum returned as pit reporters. Ralph Sheheen and Lindsay Czarniak joined the team full-time for 2007, replacing Dave Burns and Allen Bestwick who had jumped to ESPN.
On June 24, Petty contributed to the broadcast from inside the race car at Infineon Raceway during the Toyota/Save Mart 350. During the race, he uttered an obscenity ("fuck") that was picked up by the network's microphones after he was involved in a crash on lap 1 with Matt Kenseth and Marc Goossens. Weber apologized to viewers, and Petty's status at TNT appears to be secure despite the incident. No fines were issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the incident as cable television is not subjected to the FCC's indecency policies.
The broadcast remained the same in the 2008 & 2009 seasons. However, halfway through TNT's 2009 race coverage Weber was suspended by TNT for an incident at a hotel and was replaced in the broadcast booth by Sheheen. TNT later announced that Weber would not return for the Daytona or Chicagoland races, leading many to believe that he was fired by the network, and named Sheheen as his replacement. To take Sheheen's place on pit road TNT turned to MRN's and SPEED's Camping World Truck Series reporter Adam Alexander.
On February 25, 2010, USA Today and Jayski's Silly Season Site confirmed that Weber's TNT contract has not been renewed, but that he's still under a general motorsports contract with NBC (which reportedly may also include Whelen Modified Tour coverage on Versus, whose parent Comcast is buying NBC Universal). NASCAR.com reported on March 3, 2010, that Weber would be replaced by Adam Alexander and Sheheen would return to pit reporting. To replace Weber as pre-race show host Lindsay Czarniak was moved from the pits to take his place. TNT hired SPEED's Phil Parsons to take Lindsay's place. Parsons won't return for 2011, and he will be replaced by SPEED's Chris Neville. Kyle Petty joined Czarniak and Larry McReynolds for the pre-race programs for the 2010 season, as Marc Fein was moved to TBS' Sunday major league baseball broadcasts. Czarniak won't return for 2012 because she has taken a position as a SportsCenter anchor on ESPN and Adam Alexander will take over as the pre race show host.
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