DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Popular NASCAR driver turned commentator Dale Earnhardt Jr., and his former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Steve Letarte, will broadcast their second Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend. They met with the media Friday morning along with on-air talent Calvin Fish and Leigh Diffey as part of the NBC Sports team covering that is covering the race.
NBC Sports’ coverage of the Rolex 24 starts live on the NBC network Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET, with NBC network coverage of the finish airing at 12 p.m. ET Sunday. In addition to the network windows on Saturday and Sunday, additional Rolex 24 Coverage includes windows on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App and the race in its entirety on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
Fish, a former driver and longtime IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship announcer, spoke about the extended benefits of having the NASCAR pair on the broadcast team for the Rolex 24 for a second consecutive year.
“I think we just have a great mix,” Fish said. “It’s great to be back, and I think last year working with Dale and Steve up there on the pit box, they come at the sport from a different angle so they’re very curious about a lot of things and I think that opens you up to look at it differently yourself.
“I think that was great for the fans.”
Earnhardt was similarly enthused to be trackside for the annual twice-around-the-clock classic endurance race. He competed in the race twice, scoring a memorable runner-up finish in 2001, co-driving a GTO-class Chevrolet Corvette with his father, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt and sports car champion Andy Pilgrim.
He finished fifth overall and third in the marquee Daytona Prototype class in the 2004 Rolex 24 co-driving with NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and sports car great Andy Wallace. The team led 345 of 519 laps, only to suffer a suspension problem in the closing laps.
“I have to remind myself that I even ran this race a couple times because we come here as the NASCAR guys. When you sit on the [NBC Sports] pit box you really do kind of fall into that fandom sort of experience watching the race and seeing who the underdogs are and who the guys to beat are,” Earnhardt said smiling.
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“It’s an incredible experience from a fan perspective.”
Earnhardt joked that he and Letarte were enjoying their Rolex experience so much, they should field a team and compete themselves one day soon. Earnhardt said Letarte would be the designated “gentlemen” driver, he would be the 50-plus driver because he’d probably be 50 years old before they could make this attempt.
“Then we’d have to have someone really really fast to save us,” Earnhardt said. “Every time we daydream about it’s a different driver.”
Both Earnhardt and Letarte said they fully expected Kyle Busch would not only enjoy his first 24-hour race experience but fully expected the reigning Cup champ to be competitive in his driving stints. There wasn’t much advice Earnhardt felt he could give the recently crowned two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Busch at this point.
“Kyle’s got a great team around him and great drivers that he’s working with and his experience will be completely different from mine,” Earnhardt said. “It was so long ago that I don’t know that I could help him a whole lot.
“It will be fun to watch him experience it. He’s such a talented driver. He’s going to be so prepared mentally and knows exactly what he needs to do to do the job right.”