NBC Gets Creative With NASCAR Announcer Positions at Watkins Glen International
The Peacock is bringing back its multi–vantage-point coverage this weekend
NBC Sports Group continues to think outside the box in locating on-air talent for its NASCAR coverage. This weekend’s telecasts from Watkins Glen International will be called from four vantage points throughout the historic 2.45-mile road course. It’s no small task for NBC Sports’ operations team, which is deploying a total of 13 announcers in seven stationary announce positions, plus four roving pit reporters using RF mics.
It’s the second consecutive year that NBC has sprinkled its announcers throughout the road course at Watkins Glen and just the latest chapter in the Peacock’s efforts to mix up its strategy for on-air talent following on the heels of an “Analyst Only” telecast and analyst Steve Letarte calling a full race from the “Peacock Pit Box” last month.
“Our NASCAR coverage first and foremost is for the fans,” says Jeff Behnke, VP, NASCAR Production, NBC Sports Group. “Anytime we can enhance, energize, and entertain all at once, we will give it a go. The multiple–vantage-point ‘Radio Style’ broadcast was well received last year, so we are going for it again.”
Talent All Over the Track: Seven Positions for 13 Announcers
NBC is combining with MRN (Motor Racing Network) and SiriusXM for the multi–vantage-point coverage of Saturday and Sunday’s race telecasts.
NASCAR on NBC’s lead race announcer Rick Allen and analyst Letarte will call both races from NBC Sports’ traditional broadcast booth above the start/finish line. Meanwhile, analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton and veteran MRN/SiriusXM radio announcer Mike Bagley will contribute to the race telecast from three individual locations around the track. Bagley will be stationed in “The Esses” along the track and will report as the cars make their way through the preliminary turns. Earnhardt (calling a race on his own from a single position for the first time) will catch the cars next, in The Carousel, and Burton will add perspective as the cars maneuver through Turn Six.
To accommodate the supplementary announce positions, NBC Sports Technical Manager Eric Thomas and his team have installed additional fiber for signal transport, along with some additional equipment.
“The biggest challenge is not as much technical as it is logistical,” says Thomas. “We will be adding three Lance Design systems to handle audio transport. One of the locations is at the farthest point from the TV compound, so getting the equipment and announcers there will be a challenge.”
Besides the newly added positions, there will be four pit reporters — Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dave Burns, and features reporter Rutledge Wood —equipped with RF microphones and roving the garages, pit lane, and infield throughout NBC’s race coverage.
In addition, the new Peacock Pit Box on pit road has upstairs and downstairs announce positions for pre/postgame coverage and will be manned by host Krista Voda and analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.
“We are very proud of the synergy between our operations/tech team and production,” says Ken Goss, “who work seamlessly together week in and week out.”
BatCam, Peacock Pit Box Make Watkins Glen Debut
Watkins Glen is typically one of NBC’s largest NASCAR productions. This year, it features 50-plus cameras, including nine Sony HDC-4300 high-speed cameras, four RF cams, 12 robos, and 16 in-car systems. New to Watkins Glen is the BatCam point-to-point aerial system, which can hit speeds of 100+ mph and has been used at other high-profile NASCAR on NBC races the past two years, is positioned just after Turn 2 and runs up the hill to the top of the Esses.
“This area will allow the camera to be as close to the track and cars as possible,” says Thomas. “We are anticipating a new and interesting angle as the cars make the turn and climb the hill.”
The Peacock Pit Box, which debuted earlier this season on NBC’s midseason NASCAR opener at Chicagoland Speedway, is deployed at pit road for pre- and post-race coverage. The 14-ft.-long x 12.5 ft.-wide remote studio set is built within a traditional pit-box frame and features two levels of sets, as well as an arsenal of robotic cameras that aid NBC’s coverage of pit road.
“The Pit Box will be in Watkins Glen and has quickly become a very comfortable location for all of our announcers,” says Thomas. “We will also be using the BatCam system, which will help showcase the high-speed on-track battles.”