Dale Earnhardt Jr. is eight NASCAR races into his broadcasting career so far, and, from the looks of things, he’s been loving just about every minute of it. The folks over at NBC have been keeping him busy, that’s for sure. He’s called races everywhere from the broadcast booth to a secondary booth to a pit box to a scaffold in a turn, and has even served as pit reporter during a practice session.
But the former NASCAR driver wouldn’t have it any other way.
“NBC is going to send me to all the tracks and they’re going to pay me to talk about it,” Earnhardt said in an interview last month. “It’s a dream come true to be honest with you.
“It just comes down to the fans’ opinion of the broadcasts, the fans’ opinion of the job we do and I do whether I get to stick around. … I’m trying to deliver and play my role.”
From a fan’s perspective, Earnhardt has certainly been delivering. According to a recent ESPN poll, 64% of those surveyed think that Dale Jr. is “a future John Madden/Dick Vitale in the making.”
It’s a pretty apt comparison, if you think about it, because like Madden with football and Vitale with basketball, Earnhardt’s encyclopedic knowledge of auto racing serves him extremely well as a broadcaster.
“Not only was he a [NASCAR] Most Popular Driver, not only was a very successful race car driver, but we all know he is a huge historian of the sport,” said Steve Letarte, Junior’s former crew chief and current NBC colleague. “He understands every decade — the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s — which helps him because he can relate to all the fans, from the 14-year-old to the grandfather.”
“That’s what makes him unique.”
That’s definitely not all that makes him unique. Just last weekend at Pocono, an observant fan spotted Junior’s autograph scrawled on a bathroom stall. Really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Slide Job.”