Behind the scenes with NASCAR on NBC


“The first event I ever announced was a women’s gymnastics meet at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln,” said Rick Allen, lead announcer for NASCAR on NBC. “The guy who was supposed to do it didn’t show up. And I just happened to be hanging around, so I did it.”

As the then-reigning back-to-back Big Eight (now Big 12) Conference decathlon champion for the Cornhuskers, as Allen was in 1991 and 1992, why wouldn’t you be hanging around the women’s gymnastics team? If charisma was a sport, he’d still be leading the league.

Allen’s affable, smooth, confident tone on the air transitions just as easily outside of the booth to the confines of the NBC Sports tent where we talked about his job as the voice of NBC Sports’ rejuvenated NASCAR franchise.

“Nothing about this position is easy, but I am privileged and very excited to be here.”

He joined Fox Sports in 2003 and served as play-by-play man for Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity races until last year. Former NASCAR driver Jeff Burton and former crew chief Steve Letarte join Allen in the booth.

control room

“NASCAR is seen as a guilty pleasure by a lot of people. We’ve all heard the jokes about endlessly turning left. But there is so much more to it. We want to explain and explore the strategy. Think about it in terms of football. If you run the ball on first and second down, you’re setting up a downfield pass on third down to the tight end. There is every bit as much strategy in NASCAR.”


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You’ve never experienced NASCAR until you’ve been driven around a track at 160 mph

I had never been to a NASCAR race before this past weekend. So you could imagine how blown away I was when I got to ride around Atlanta Motor Speedway at 160-plus mph with driver Brad Keselowski, watch Nationwide’s Degree V12 300 from the pits and then take in the Sprint Cup’s Pep Boys 500 from the grandstand.

When I was first invited to Atlanta as a guest of Degree V12, I didn’t know what to expect. When I told friends and family what I was about to embark on, the reactions ranged from excitement, to jealously, to flat out hatred that they didn’t have the same opportunity. (I’m pretty sure that one of my family members won’t be speaking to me at Thanksgiving dinner this year.)

On Friday, along with three other media members, I was taken to Atlanta Motor Speedway via a party bus. When we got there (the track seemingly appeared out of nowhere, which played into the ambiance of the experience), we were driven to the infield and immediately shown the media center. From there, we went to the pits and got suited up for what would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The people from the Richard Petty Driving Experience helped us get into our flameproof suits and helmets, which was definitely one of those moments in my life when I questioned what the hell I was doing. Brad showed up shortly thereafter and immediately asked with a smile, “Is anyone scared?”

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