Fox Sports wrapped up its television broadcast for the first half of the 2022 NASCAR season at Sonoma Raceway (California) with plenty of momentum, including an increase in overall viewership in Cup Series races led at least in part by the debut of the next generation car.
The first half of the season saw new winners, new faces up front, extraordinary success by new teams (Trackhouse Racing and 23XI Racing) and convincing racing on the track for the most part.
This week’s NBC meets at the Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway with drivers fighting for their decider lives followed by the playoffs and then the championship race itself.
Given how the first half of the season turned out, the 2022 title chase could be one of the most attractive chases in years.
A fierce battle for the remaining stadiums
“There is heavy fighting now to make these playoffs happen. Every end of a stage counts, every end of a race counts — all while making an amazing change to the sport with this new car and race quality through the roof,” said NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and NBC analyst Jeff Burton. .
“The intensity and aggressiveness is at the ceiling. It makes everything that happens that is so much more important moving forward.”
Hall of Famer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed. Two-time winner of the Daytona 500.
“We have seen a very great season play out so far. The first half of the year has seen some of the most compelling storylines and some positive momentum with the next generation car. It was a lot to accommodate everyone,” he said.
Chris Bucher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang Wreck 3rd Bank
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
Earnhardt got a head start with his NBC teammates this year, when he served as a guest analyst for Fox’s broadcast of the Talladega Cup series in April.
“I feel like we have a pretty good understanding of what kind of product Fox is delivering to us as we start our part of the season. I’m looking forward to getting back to the booth, and talking about racing,” he said.
“There is a lot to understand about the next generation car for everyone across the industry and to be able to actually get into the cabin and actually race has been a really cool thing for me. So, I really appreciated that opportunity. It made me even more excited for this part of the year.”
Most NBC analysts said that the performance of the next-generation car exceeded all expectations they had entered the season.
They also believe there is potential for more drama as the teams still trying to qualify for the playoffs grow in intensity.
“I think the car has been a positive surprise for me in the form of some racing. There have been some moments where there has been some anxiety or intrigue,” Earnhardt said. So it puts in the race we’ve come to expect. I think they put a lot of effort into trying to ensure that they can improve there.
“I’ll be honest, man, it was way funnier than I expected on the mile and a half track. There were some really great moments in the way the drivers are able to race around each other and that’s a lot better than I expected.
“I expected with his new car and with so many new variants and the way the lower body is, the way the tail is more centered, I expected it to come with a steep learning curve and a lot of collaboration between NASCAR and the teams to continue developing this car, but it actually was good Right after coming out of the gate.”
Burton describes 2022 product on track as ‘amazing’
Burton said it’s hard to imagine a season that started with so many unknowns as this one, yet has produced positive human developments so far.
“The quality of the racing we’ve seen is amazing,” he said. “We see guys rolling on their own. We see that you are being rewarded for really pushing the limits of this car.
“If you’re not willing to push the limits on this car, you probably can’t go fast enough. If you’re willing to push the limits on the car, you’re likely to crash a little bit. Not that we want to see the drivers get destroyed, but we want to see the drivers in position. It gets really difficult.
“There’s no way anyone could look at this car and say we’re not there.”