NBC announces Jeff Behnke as VP of NASCAR Production

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NASCAR will return to NBC starting in 2015 and on Monday, the NBC Sports Group made its first personnel announcement for the coverage. NBC Sports and NBCSN Executive Producer Sam Flood announced Emmy Award-winning sports TV producer and executive Jeff Behnke will join NBC and NBCSN in January as Vice President of NASCAR Production. He’ll work out of Charlotte, where a majority of the series’ teams are based, the first time where a network head has been based in that area.

“Jeff Behnke’s talent, creativity and experience make him the kind of leader that we want on our team,” Flood said. “Jeff is going to add a great deal to our partnership with NASCAR, and I am thrilled to welcome him to the NBC Sports Family.”

Behnke’s extensive experience includes serving as Executive Producer at Turner Sports for seven years, coordinating and covering NASCAR, NBA, MLB and several of golf’s major championships. That capped a 27-year run at Turner; prior to that, Behnke also worked with ABC for its Indianapolis 500, Wide World of Sports and Olympics coverage.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to join NBC Sports,” said Behnke.  “I’m looking forward to this opportunity to be a part of NBC’s history of excellence in sports television and unmatched leadership.”

NASCAR announced details of its return to NBC in July. Starting in 2015, the NBC Sports Group will carry the last 20 Sprint Cup races, final 19 Nationwide Series races (under whatever new name that series will take on after Nationwide title sponsorship leaves), and select regional touring series events.

The full release on Behnke’s appointment can be found here, via the NBC Sports Group Press Box website.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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