The butterflies still hit Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing weekend. Although he’s no longer behind the wheel, he’s tied to NASCAR as a television analyst for NBC. Last weekend’s race in Nashville was the season opener for Junior and NBC, and the network threw the NASCAR Hall of Famer a surprise that didn’t sit well with his stomach.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was already nervous about NASCAR weekend
On his Dale Jr. Download podcast last week, Earnhardt Jr. admitted he was “terrified” of having to host Countdown to Green, a live prerace show. Junior hosted it with country star Brad Paisley and headed into the segment concerned about his lack of experience as a host.
“I have not a lot of experience hosting,” he said on the podcast. “We do the podcast, and aside from this part, it’s not live. The Countdown to Green will be live. NBC is coming back to be your host for NASCAR for the next several months, so I’m a little nervous about that.”
Junior admitted he was fine with calling the race. That comes easy to him. He struggled knowing he wasn’t as qualified as some of the more experienced broadcasters when it came to hosting the show.
“There’s so many people that I know and I’ve worked with who have done that type of job for this sport over the last several decades that probably deserve to be doing that job instead of me,” he said. “I’m more nervous about that than anything else. Calling a race or being a part of the broadcast booth is easy, and it’s fun. I’m looking forward to that. The hosting part I’m a little bit nervous about.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ‘about threw up’ prior to last weekend’s race
Earnhardt Jr. was so nervous about hosting Countdown to Green that he spent the week studying former host Krista Voda, watching YouTube videos of her. “I literally sat there and listened to every word she said during the show and wrote down some of the interesting things and ways she sent them to commercial or brought them back,” he said during a Q&A session on his most recent Dale Jr. Download podcast. “I felt a little bit better after doing that.”
Earnhardt then got the surprise of his weekend at Saturday morning’s production meeting. He was handed the production sheet that laid out the broadcasting plans for the day. “My name was at the top of the list,” he said. “I didn’t know I was doing Countdown to Green for the Xfinity race. I didn’t, until about an hour before, and I about threw up.”
He then composed himself and found the bright side.
“A second later, after I got over that nausea, I was like, ‘No, no, no this is a good thing. It’s a quick 20-minute Countdown to Green before Xfinity, and it would give me a test run for tomorrow, so I don’t go into tomorrow without any reps,'” he said.
Junior has a lot of respect for broadcasters
Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time racing after the 2017 season and was in the broadcasting booth in 2018. While racing came naturally to him, speaking publicly did not. He was always shy as a child, and he didn’t really come out of his shell until he started getting comfortable with his podcast. After hosting last weekend’s prerace shows, he has a lot of respect for what the analysts deal with.
“When I watched TV before I started doing this, I never thought any of that was hard or looked at it like that must be difficult or I bet those guys are nervous or look how they sent it to commercials,” he said. “You never think about those things. It just seems so effortless.
“When you get thrown into that position for the first time, you’re like, ‘Aaahhhh.’ It was really scary, plus you’re sitting next to Brad Paisley. He’s an icon. I’m nervous around celebrities.”
The tables were turned last weekend on Earnhardt Jr. as he went from celebrity to newbie. Like a champ, he went out and handled himself well.