All-star lineup of talent includes Jeff Burton and Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the time since it was announced in July 2013 that NBC Sports would be returning to its coverage of NASCAR , a snowball effect-type buzz has been building around the media group's Stamford, Connecticut, studios that would make Winter Storm Juno jealous. With its first season of Sprint Cup Series coverage in nearly a decade barreling towards us, the buzz reached a paramount on Tuesday when the incoming, all-star team was introduced during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "Everybody at NBC Sports is thrilled to be back in the sport," said Jeff Behnke, NBC Sports Vice President, NASCAR . "It's been eight and a half long years and I can tell you that the buzz around all of our production people, our engineers and our talent, sales, marketing; every group. We are absolutely thrilled to be back in the sport." Following Behnke's introduction, an eye-popping promo video for NBC's coverage (which begins Fourth of July weekend with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway ) was played, featuring enough high-throttle footage of raucous racing and wrecking to get the heart pumping -- and the season hasn't even started yet. "I wish you could go up to Stamford, Connecticut, and walk through the halls," said Kyle Petty, former driver and NBC newcomer. "They are truly excited to have this property; it's crazy. With the Premier League, with NHL, with NFL, some of the other properties that they have, the whole building there's a buzz, and there was a buzz building all last year. "That's the exciting part for me. Sometimes when you drove a race car, all it took was a different paint job on the car and you got excited when you showed up at the race track. Or you put on a different uniform, a different sponsor and you were excited. It was like being a kid again. This group is excited to come back. It's a new look, it's a different feel and I think they're going to bring some stuff this year that hopefully will excite (the media) but I know it's going to excite the fans." Of course, live racing on television can only take you so far without a group of highly talented individuals to call the action, so NBC has arranged a star-studded crew to bring it all home. Media veteran Rick Allen will helm the lap-by-lap duties while 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner Jeff Burton and former Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 crew chief Steve Letarte will join him for color commentary. Other on-air talent includes Marty Snider -- who was part of the original NBC coverage from 2001 to 2006 -- NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, Krista Voda, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns and Rutledge Wood. Motorsports journalists Nate Ryan and Dustin Long have also signed on for editorial coverage. For Burton, who was in the car for four races just a season ago with Michael Waltrip Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing , this whole "being a media member" thing is a completely new, heavier experience. "I've put on some weight," Burton said. "The media gets fed well, so that's been an issue for me. Jeff has done an incredible job of putting a group of people together. This is just like building a team, it really is. It's the same as being part of a race team. We have a goal that's different than winning races, but it's about doing the best broadcast we can and it's really been fun to get to know everybody." In addition to the studio in Stamford where the flagship show " NASCAR America" will be broadcast from, additional support will come from an NBC Sports studio in Charlotte, along with a smaller studio at Burton's own late model garage -- appropriately titled "Burton's Garage." While the long-time driver is more focused on the culinary aspects of being a member of the media, Letarte -- an employee of Hendrick for two decades -- may find that his biggest obstacle is objectivity. Even so, it's an aspect that he's looking forward to. "For 20 years, I've basically looked at one car and one car only,” Letarte, most recently crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., said. "…You're looking at one car and that car is your whole day. The opportunity to step back and see the entire race unfold, all 43 competitors, the different strategies; it's going to be nice to not have to cheer for one car but to cheer for a good race and to see what competitor can bring his best game that day. That's a big difference for me." The commitment to NASCAR that NBC is making cannot be understated, and it really began last year. The outlet found ways to marry motorsports into its coverage of other sports and entertainment, whether it’s seeing Jimmie Johnson race Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Snider doing a piece with Johnson and his love of bicycles for the Tour de France or Carl Edwards teaming with Kentucky Speedway for a Triple Crown promotion. Dale Jarrett will also have an upcoming segment on the Golf Channel to showcase his links knowledge. WATCH: Johnson race Fallon in a Cooler Scooter Race On Friday, we’ll see the newest installment of cross-promotion when the NASCAR Gridiron Challenge airs at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN, pairing drivers with former NFL players for a 20-lap race and an NFL skills-type challenge. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get full lineup of NASCAR programming for the week All times ET Monday, January 26 4:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 8 p.m., NASCAR 2015: A New Era (re-air), FOX Sports 2 9 p.m., 2014 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (re-air), FOX Sports 2 10 p.m., 100,000 Cameras: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (re-air), FOX Sports 2 10:30 p.m., 2014 Daytona 500 (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Tuesday, January 27 4:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Wednesday, January 28 3:30 p.m., NASCAR America: 2014 Chase Spectacular (re-air), NBC Sports Network 4 p.m., NASCAR America: NASCAR "In the News" 2014 (re-air), NBC Sports Network 4:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 2 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Thursday, January 29 3 a.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 1 4:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Friday, January 30 4 p.m., NASCAR America: Countdown 2014 (re-air), NBC Sports Network 4:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 7 p.m., NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction, NBC Sports Network 10 p.m., NASCAR Gridiron Challenge, NBC Sports Network 11 p.m., NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction (re-air), NBC Sports Network Saturday, January 31 1 a.m., NASCAR Gridiron Challenge (re-air), NBC Sports Network Sunday, February 1 2 a.m., NASCAR Gridiron Challenge (re-air), NBC Sports Network
Sanctioning body will bring teams down pit road for manipulation RELATED: NASCAR announces 2015 rule changes NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will no longer be allowed to alter their car's side skirts during an event, a practice that became widespread during the 2014 season. At the NASCAR State of the Sport to kick off the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said the sanctioning body will bring cars back down pit road if officials see that the side skirts have been manipulated during a pit stop in the race. O'Donnell said it would police flared skirts "by any means possible," including use of the new pit road technology that will make its debut during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway . Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development said the practice was allowed to continue last season because officials "didn't want to change how we were policing things in the middle of the Chase. "We knew at the end of the year there was work to do on our part in how we policed it in 2015," he said. "We'll do that with our pit road cameras, we'll do that with our video replay system and we'll do that with our officials on pit road." For 2015, NASCAR will police pit road through the use of 45 cameras (located on the grandstand side of the track) that will feed video back to a central location. Software written into the system will alert officials to any potential violations. There will also be 10 officials roaming pit road to monitor pit stops. If it is determined that a team has altered the side skirt, Pemberton said the team will be required to correct the issue at that time. "If we somebody physically pulling it out, or doing something to make it come out, we'll react. We'll make them fix it (during the race)," he said. The pieces, officially known as vertical rocker panel extensions, are located along the bottom of the car's body between the front and rear tires. They help seal the area between the bottom of the car's chassis and the track surface, limiting airflow underneath the vehicle. Unlike the thin sheet metal that covers most of the car, the pieces are made of hard plastic, which limits damage when they come into contact with the surface of the track. However, one short section of the right-side piece, located between the exhaust area and the rear tire, is constructed of metal to withstand heat from the car's exhaust. And it's that piece that drew the interest of officials as teams began to pull out or "flare" the metal portion in an attempt to improve downforce as the car traveled through the turns. The greater the pressure generated, the better the car moves through the corner, allowing the driver to maintain speed. Not all teams were flaring the pieces last season, but those that did typically would make the adjustment during an early pit stop. NASCAR allowed the practice to continue as the season progressed, but said on several occasions it was something that would be addressed after the completion of the 2014 season. Teams haven't said how much is gained from such an adjustment. There has, however, been talk about possible problems the move creates for other drivers. Flat tires following contact sidelined at least two Chase contenders late in the year, and both were asked if the flared side skirts were at least partly to blame. "I would assume it was something like that," Team Penske driver Joey Logano said of contact at Texas between his Ford and that of Richard Petty Motorsports driver Marcos Ambrose . "Obviously, the consequences of that (flaring) is that is you touch each other … you can get a flat tire, but that's part of it. We all know it. We can see it. "We know if we touch each other we'll have an issue because of everyone being so aggressive in that department. But that's the name of the game right now." In the same race, contact between Logano's teammate, Brad Keselowski , and Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon resulted in a flat tire on the No. 24 Chevrolet. It also set the stage for post-race fireworks involving Gordon, Keselowski and various crewmen. Gordon said whether his flat tire was caused by Keselowski's flared side skirt or something else was "certainly debatable." "You don't know. The … tailpipes stick out, too," Gordon said, "and as hard as the impact was, it's possible that the tailpipes may have done it." Still, he said, such body alterations aren't helping the situation in such instances. "It is definitely getting a little bit out of control," he said. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Six drivers will compete in diverse driver development program DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D), the leading developmental platform for female and multicultural drivers and pit crew members, announced its 2015 class today. The program welcomes four talented program newcomers to the roster of six drivers striving to transition into the sport’s national series spotlight. Rev Racing, the program’s competition arm, has played a key role in the development of 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson and NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers Darrell Wallace Jr . and Daniel Suarez. "Taking steps to find and develop young female and multicultural athletes who could represent the future of NASCAR is at the core of our organization’s mission," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. "We were impressed by the talent displayed at the Combine [in October of 2014], and are eager to help this group develop their strengths on and off the track." Rev Racing will field four teams in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and two in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The 2015 class is led by returning K&N Pro Series East driver Jay Beasley and Devon Amos, who after an impressive 2014 performance in the Whelen All-American Series earned a spot in the K&N Pro Series East. The 2015 NASCAR D4D roster includes: Devon Amos : Returning to the team, the 23-year-old Rio Rancho, New Mexico, native will make the jump to the K&N Pro Series East after two full seasons in the Whelen All-American Series. Jay Beasley: Finishing 13th overall and sixth in a loaded Sunoco Rookie of the Year field in the K&N Pro Series East last season, the 23-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada will return for a second season, aiming to best his rookie campaign. Collin Cabre: After an impressive NASCAR D4D Combine performance, the 21-year-old Thonotosassa, Florida, native will compete in the K&N Pro Series East in his first year with Rev Racing. Cabre has spent the past five years racing asphalt and dirt sprint cars. Natalie Decker: A 17-year-old newcomer to the Rev Racing roster from Eagle River, Wisconsin, Decker collected feature wins in a limited late model and super late model, as well as earning Rookie and Sportsman of the Year honors in ARCA SCAG Midwest Truck Tour. She will compete in the Whelen All-American Series in 2015. Kenzie Ruston: Entering her third season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and first with Rev Racing, the 22-year-old El Reno, Oklahoma, native is also a member of NASCAR Next, an industry initiative to identify tomorrow’s stars. Ruston broke her own record in 2014 as the highest finishing female driver in the K&N Pro Series East with a runner-up finish at Iowa Speedway on her way to finishing ninth in points. Dylan Smith: The 22-year-old from Randolph, Vermont earned a spot with Rev Racing in the Whelen All-American Series after competing in his own Late Model last year. The Stewart-Haas Racing employee ran 15 races and finished 38th in the Whelen All-American Series Division I national standings. Under Rev Racing owner and CEO Max Siegel’s leadership, the development program aligns drivers with a team of executives, athletic directors, crew chiefs and mentors tasked with helping NASCAR D4D drivers achieve career successes; thus, improving their goal of reaching one of NASCAR's three national series. " NASCAR Drive for Diversity goes much deeper than putting drivers behind the wheel of race cars," said Siegel. "The program is all encompassing, providing competition, athletic training and professional development opportunities for drivers who have the determination and talent to reach NASCAR's top levels. We've seen this with Larson, Suarez and Wallace Jr. and are excited about the potential of this talented group of drivers." Growth of the program extends to pit crew members under the NASCAR D4D Crew Member Development Program, also managed by Siegel. In 2014, over 30 multicultural athletes pitted fulltime for teams across all three national series.
Take a look at NASCAR's 2015 Drive for Diversity class that includes drivers from all over the country, including Mexico and Canada
NASCAR debuted the new pit-road officiating technology during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.
Sprint Cup, XFINITY, Camping World Truck slates set for 2015
Keep up to date on the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings only on the official site of NASCAR .
The official site of NASCAR , the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Find NASCAR Nationwide Series news, schedule, standings and drivers.
The official site of NASCAR , the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Find NASCAR news, schedules, standings and drivers.