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Volume 21 No. 34
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NBC plugs into Gordon's glow

As part of its first-time coverage of NASCAR, NBC will broadcast a one-hour special hosted by Jeff Gordon on Nov. 13. The show, "NASCAR Behind the Scenes," is a joint effort of NBC, sports TV producer Wide Open Entertainment, sports marketing firm Millsport LLC and the William Morris Agency, which represents Gordon, NASCAR's premier driver.

More programs are planned featuring Gordon, said Bob Basche, president of Stamford, Conn.-based Millsport. Wide Open, Millsport and William Morris are in talks with ESPN about a NASCAR-themed series called "Thundering Tracks," Basche said. The series, with Gordon as host, would provide a look at some of NASCAR's legendary racetracks and would air during next year's racing season.

NBC, Millsport and William Morris are pursuing advertisers for "NASCAR Behind the Scenes." Among the companies being approached are marketers that Gordon endorses, as well as other "key NASCAR-related clients," Basche said. Advance Auto Parts, for example, has agreed to buy ad time on the show, sources said.

A presenting sponsorship for "NASCAR Behind the Scenes" is also available.

The special, airing from 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern time, will follow NBC's broadcast of the Miami 300, a Busch Grand National race, at 1:30 p.m. Co-hosting "NASCAR Behind the Scenes" will be NASCAR racing team owner and former NFL coach Joe Gibbs and NBC newscaster Brian Williams, who will anchor the network's inaugural NASCAR broadcasts. (The following day, NBC will televise the Pennzoil 400, a Winston Cup race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway near Miami Beach.)

"NASCAR Behind the Scenes" will include a backstage tour of the garages and the pits at Homestead-Miami Speedway and other NASCAR tracks, interviews with drivers and race teams, and a look at the colorful Miami beach scene. It also will contain live coverage of the Pennzoil 400 "Happy Hour," the final practice runs that the drivers go through on the day before the race. During "Happy Hour," which takes place before all Winston Cup races, drivers often chat with one another and with fans.

NBC will produce "NASCAR Behind the Scenes" in conjunction with Wide Open, Millsport and the William Morris Agency.

Morningstar Entertainment Group, a sister company of Wide Open, has produced two Jeff Gordon-related specials, both for TNN, said Wide Open President Mike Runnels: "Million Dollar Date," which Gordon hosted in 1997, and "Jeff Gordon Wide Open," a one-hour special that aired in 1996.