Sources: NBC inches closer to finalizing on-air broadcasting lineup for 2015

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 11, 2014 

— The team which will bring NASCAR telecasts back to NBC in 2015 is close to being finalized.

Dave Burns and Mike Massaro – both members of ESPN/ABC’s NASCAR broadcast team – will make the move to NBC Sports in time for the deal, the Observer has learned.

Burns is expected to become part of NBC’s pit road reporting team in NASCAR, while Massaro is expected to become an in-studio host, sources said. Burns currently serves in a similar role with ESPN as does Massaro, who has hosted the show “NASCAR Now” and worked pit road during race telecasts.

Burns worked with NBC when the network previously broadcasted NASCAR events.

Earlier this week, NBC completed its broadcast booth lineup with the announcement that current crew chief Steve Letarte will join driver-turned-analyst Jeff Burton and play-by-play announcer Rick Allen.

Spokespersons for ESPN and NBC declined comment.

End of tandem drafting: The end appears in sight for two-car tandem drafting at NASCAR’s superspeedways.

Through various rules changes, NASCAR virtually eliminated the practice – one car pushing another all the way around the track – in the Sprint Cup series two years ago. But the practice has remained possible in both Nationwide and Truck series races.

Not so this season.

Not only has NASCAR implemented rules changes in the Nationwide series which should make its use impractical but NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, said Saturday NASCAR has outlawed the practice and will police its use.

There is a new model truck being used this season which will make the tandem’s use in that series impractical as well.

“We just don’t want to see it,” Pemberton said.

Qualifying changes for 2014: Pemberton confirmed some procedural changes to qualifying for the upcoming season, including the elimination of all single-car qualifying runs in Nationwide and Truck series races, including those at Daytona.

The use of single-car qualifying runs and the traditional duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500 will remain in place.

“This place stands on its own right now,” Pemberton said of the 500. “They have qualifying races which nobody else has. Daytona’s format has always been a one-off and a great format.”

Qualifying for the remaining Cup races will change in some form, but Pemberton said what they entail won’t be announced until later this month.

Another Earnhardt running in Nationwide: Jeffrey Earnhardt will take another step in his career in 2014, teaming with JD Motorsports with Gary Keller to run the full Nationwide schedule for the first time.

Earnhardt, the grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., will join teammate Landon Cassill at JD Motorsports. Earnhardt will run car No. 4 and Cassill the No. 01.

Earnhardt, 24, has run partial Nationwide and Truck schedules in past seasons.

“This sport runs in my family, and it’s where I want to be every week,” he said. “Racing with Johnny and Gary and the guys will give me a shot at running well every week and adding on the experience I need.”

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