NBC’s return to broadcasting NASCAR at last year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was … interesting. The July 5 primetime race was delayed by rain, stretching the broadcast team’s ability to put something, anything on air to fill time. The green flag didn’t wave until 11:42pm ET Sunday. The race ended Monday morning 2:41am ET, with a massive wreck at the finish line that launched Austin Dillon’s car into the catch fence. At least NBC had a better finish to the season, with Jeff Gordon in the running for the championship in his final Cup race.
NASCAR is unique in sports broadcasting in that networks don’t switch to alternate programming during a weather delay. A lot of it has to do with the passion and patience of the fans — even the extended prerace coverage gets decent TV ratings — and the cooperation of NASCAR drivers and teams. “That’s why NASCAR is such a remarkable sport, to have drivers that take the time to have conversations throughout that long, long, long rain fill,” says NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “They know this audience loves to hear from them and loves to engage with the stars of the sport, and it’s a real tip of the cap to the culture of NASCAR that allows this to happen.” Former driver and current analyst Jeff Burton says, “It presents a little bit of a challenge for us, but basically we just get to talk about what we like talking about anyway. We all have a passion for the sport, and it gives us a chance to talk more about it than we normally have.”
NBC’s 2016 NASCAR coverage begins at Daytona with the XFINITY Series race on July 1 (NBCSN) and the Cup race July 2 (NBC), both in primetime. NBCSN and NBC share Cup Series races through the rest of the season, with USA Network airing the Aug. 7 race at Watkins Glen due to NBC Sports’ Olympics coverage. The Chase playoffs begin Sept. 18 at Chicagoland on NBCSN, with the season finale Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami on NBC. Also due to the Olympics, XFINITY races air on CNBC Aug. 6, and on USA Network Aug. 13 and 19.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 1, 2016