Dale Earnhardt Jr says his first NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series commentary for NBCSN at Chicagoland Speedway “ticks a lot of boxes for me”.
Earnhardt, who retired from fulltime competition last season, joined former crew chief Steve Letarte in the commentary box as an analyst, watched on as Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson fought out an amazing last-lap duel for victory.
Junior high-fived with Letarte as Busch claimed victory in a wild finish, and said his new role in the booth was everything he’d hoped for.
“It was a pretty exciting finish, absolutely, but this was a great race from start to finish – I’ve got to applaud the drivers,” said Earnhardt. “This was really hot, really miserable conditions, and we had a battle for the lead pretty much all day long – a lot of story lines and an awesome finish.
“We talk about the big three, we’ve been wondering who was going to get up there and challenge them – Kyle Larson. He showed himself today, it’s another second place finish for him, unfortunately, that makes it seven on mile-and-a-half tracks, and I know he’s trying to break that streak, but maybe he’s one of those guys who can challenge the big three in the play-offs.
“Today, I don’t know if it’s like this every day, but this has been a lot of fun. I knew it would be, when I had the chance to do it over the years, it ticks a lot of boxes for me. I love racing, I love being around the track, it felt so good just to be here and have a purpose – and be an asset to the sport, in any way, shape or form – that makes me happy.”
After the race, on his post-race Twitter broadcast, Earnhardt added: “First broadcast was a big hit, I felt like. I’m happy man. I haven’t had chance to look.
“Been a great weekend, been surprised how different calling qualifying and racing is – I’ve never watched qualifying, that was very hard. Calling races is much easier. If I hadn’t done the Xfinity race, I’d have been freakin’ nervous – I’d have bombed on the pre-show!”
When Larson ran into Busch at Turn 2 on the final lap, Earnhardt felt he needed to shout: “SLIDE JOB! I wanted Rick [Allen, lead commentator] to say it. Oooh man, I love racing! I’m getting paid to go watch races, how awesome is that?
“Daytona’s going to be a good race, going to be a hard race to call – plate racing, and drafting and all that. Should be a great time.”
When shown the race call of the finish, with Earnhardt's commentary, Kyle Busch quipped: “That’s all Dale Jr right there, it’s 70s, 80s… that’s all he watches! The most cool thing was, Larson saved it!”