NBC Sports Group Brings ‘Inside The Glass’ Format to NASCAR With ‘On The Box’
Analyst Steve Letarte will be located on top of a pit box during XFINITY Series Playoff coverage
NASCAR fans will have a whole new trackside perspective on tomorrow’s XFINITY Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway: analyst Steve Letarte will be positioned atop JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 Cup pit box on pit road. The former Daytona 500-winning crew chief will join lead announcer Rick Allen and analyst Jeff Burton, who will be in NBC’s traditional broadcast booth above the start/finish line, in calling the race. This “On The Box” format echoes the “Inside The Glass” format that has become a signature of NBC’s NHL telecasts.
“Anytime viewers and fans can be taken directly into the lion’s den of a sporting event and further the thrills, chaos, and excitement, it is a win,” says Jeff Behnke, VP, NASCAR production, NBC Sports Group. “Steve’s uncanny ability to communicate what crew chiefs and drivers are thinking, contemplating, and strategizing is a huge plus. This is a test case and won’t be perfect, but taking chances is how we can learn and share more of the race-day experience.”
On The Box will take viewers trackside to experience a crew chief’s perspective firsthand. Letarte, who had a nine-year career atop the box, will offer real-time commentary and insight throughout the race — just as Pierre McGuire does from his Inside The Glass position between the benches for the Peacock’s NHL coverage.
From an operations perspective, NBC is adding several monitors to Letarte’s location atop the No. 47 pit box, including a program feed, stats, and producer iso. A full-time robotic camera will be attached to the pit box so that the production truck can deploy a two-box format of Letarte and the race action at any point. Behnke believes this two-box frame will provide viewers with a real-time feel for how he sees the race strategy unfold at any moment.
On the audio side, Letarte will use the same headsets used by NBC’s pit reporters, nullifying the noise influx of the pit-road location.
“Given Steve’s always energetic demeanor, he will have the ability to be mobile while he is On The Box,” adds Behnke. “The visuals Steve will see from the pit box, instead of from the booth, are very different. This position allows him to see firsthand the emotions that are taking place and will hopefully enhance the storytelling.”
Thinking Outside the Booth
Of course, this isn’t the first time NBC Sports has gotten creative with the location of its on-air talent during NASCAR coverage.
In July, for Monster Energy Cup coverage from Poconos Raceway, NBC Sports Group debuted its “What-Why Booth.” The booth (featuring Letarte and Burton) was separate from the traditional announce booth (featuring Allen and Dale Jarrett) and was equipped with a telestrator, social-media feeds, and virtual graphics to provide a closer cross-examination of pivotal events throughout the race.
In August, for the XFINITY Series race at Watkins Glen, NY, NBC teamed up with the Motor Racing Network to deploy four announce locations throughout the 2.45-mile road course.
“We want to be great storytellers first and foremost, along with answering the question ‘why’ for the fans,” says Behnke. “Taking a few opportunities to be creative with the race coverage has allowed NBC to give some races a different vibe. Change is good. It won’t always be perfect, but that is how we can learn and improve.”