Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the NBCSN NASCAR broadcast crew tried to wait out the rain at Daytona during Friday night’s Xfinity Series race. During the delay, the network replayed the July 2001 Daytona race where Earnhardt claimed an emotional victory on the track where his father had tragically died just months before.
While watching the replay and providing commentary with booth partners Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte, the NASCAR Hall of Famer called out Letarte for a decision the No. 24 team of Jeff Gordon made during that race. Earnhardt also revealed the special thing he did with the engine that was used in that race and won him more than $4 million.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew broadcast Xfinity Series race at Daytona
The Xfinity Series took center stage Friday night under the lights at Daytona. Early in the race, Brandon Jones, who started from the third position, began experiencing problems around lap eight when a large piece of debris covered up a portion of the grill, which caused the car to get hot and expel water from the pressure-release valve.
Up in the broadcast booth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, and Steve Letarte talked about the situation and what they thought Jones should do.
“Oil pressure is pegged,” Letarte said, repeating what Jones had told his team over the radio. “They’re going to have to pit. There’s a competition yellow around lap 15. That’s seven more laps. There’s no way this car can run 20 more miles. You just need to come to pit road. Lose a lap. And that’s okay. Get the lap back at the comp yellow.”
At the competition yellow, cameras showed the No. 19 team pushing the car behind the wall. Earnhardt said the motor had been damaged when it was losing the water.
“I’m not judging, because I’ve made this mistake,” Letarte said. “Jeff, you’ve made this mistake. You have to just come in quicker. It seems like they ran it too hot, too long without water. In the end, that engine’s expired so the day is over for the 19 car.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. calls out Steve Letarte
In addition to the No. 19 team calling it a night during the competition yellow, the rest of the field remained on pit road as the heavens opened up over Daytona. It resulted in a lengthy rain delay that eventually postponed the race for the night.
During the delay, NBCSN opted to replay the broadcast of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s emotional win at Daytona 20 years earlier, when he found victory in the first race back at the track after his father had tragically died on the final lap of the Daytona 500 months earlier.
What made the replay more entertaining was the broadcast showed Earnhardt, Burton, and Letarte watching the race, and providing commentary on what was happening. At one point late in the race, Jeff Gordon experienced problems, and smoke billowed out from behind his car as he stayed on the track.
Earnhardt couldn’t help but call out Letarte, who worked with Gordon’s team during that time, for the hypocrisy of what he had said earlier about Brandon Jones getting off the track.
“You were giving Jones such a hard time earlier tonight for staying out too long, and look at what y’all did,” Earnhardt said to him as cameras showed the No. 24 car with a huge trail of smoke behind while continuing around the track.
Letarte initially paused. “Yeah,” he admitted.
Reveals engine made $4.5 million and sits on pedestal at house
During the replay of the July 2001 race at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about the various strategies he employed throughout the race to stay upfront and eventually win the race. He also talked about the specific engine in that car, its impressive overall success, and the interesting thing he did with it when it was used for the last time.
“We weren’t going for the million-dollar bonus in this race but we would end up winning it twice with the engine that’s in this car tonight,” Earnhardt said. “I have that engine at my house on a pedestal. This motor. That motor won this race, and it won two one-million dollar No Bull races. It won about $4.5 million for us. It won three in a row at Talladega.”
NBCSN made a great call to replay the 2001 Daytona race with Earnhardt & Co. providing commentary. It was entertaining and allowed race fans an opportunity to hear the backstories that no one had ever heard before. Based on the fan response on social media, the network would be smart to consider offering this type of format in the future.