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NASCAR gets its turn on NBC with Daytona 500

Premier stock-car race will be aired on Sunday

Not all cameras or announcers are in Turin, Italy for NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics.

And even though it may seem like it, not everything you will see on NBC this weekend occurs on ice or snow.

That's because on Sunday, NBC turns its attention to the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of NASCAR. "You're on the edge of your seat every single lap. It's great racing,'' said Wally Dallenbach, who'll be an analyst on the coverage. "There are so many good cars right now I don't know how you could pick a favorite. There are easily 10-15 guys that could win this race.''

An hour pre-race show starts at 12:30 p.m. and the race is at 1:30.

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Bill Weber is the pre-race host and will be calling his first Daytona 500. He'll be joined by Benny Parsons and Dallenbach in the booth along with pit reporters Allen Bestwick, Dave Burns, Marty Snider and Matt Yocum.

Said Weber: "I look at this exactly as the race fans do. I'm goind in there to do the Super Bowl. This is a huge challenge. Very few guys have had a chance to call the Daytona 500. I'm happy to add my name to that list."

NBC will use 76 cameras (including 10 cars with three-camera in-car rigs) around the 2.5-mile speedway. This is the third, and final year, for NBC and Daytona. At least for awhile because the network lost the rights.

Like this year, the race was shown in between the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and attracted 35 million viewers. In 2004, it was watched by 33.5 million.

Part of the pre-race show will center on Dale Earnhardt, who was killed at Daytona five years ago.

"We all knew Earnhardt was a star and the people loved him but I just could not believe the response after his death in 2001,'' said Parsons, "and it still continues today. I had been around him for 25 years before he was killed here in Dayonta. I had no idea how revered he was by the fans.''

Around the tube

Due to clearance issues, KSTC-TV telecasts of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Charter Communications to markets in Rochester, Mankato, Fairmont and Winona have been cancelled.

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The Wolves and KSTC are looking to reach an agreement to telecast games next year.

The state high school girls hockey tournament will be televised on KSTC next weekend, but shown on Charter, too. Working the tournament will be Clay Matvick, Karyn Bye-Dietz, Ann Carroll, Tom Hauser, Lou Nanne, Phil Housley, Mike McGraw and Winny Brodt.

Six Minnesota Twins spring training games will be televised on Fox Sports Net North and, in addition, the March 23 game against the New York Yankees will air on ESPN2.

CBS sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein is leaving the network. She said only her closest friends and family members truly can understand why.

Another CBS sideline reporter, Armen Keteyian, is joining CBS News as chief investigative correspondent.

The Minnesota-Illinois men's basketball game at Williams Arena on Feb. 28 will be nationally televised on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m.

ESPN will cover the inaugural World Baseball Classic, a 16-team international tournament that will run from March 3-20. At least 16 games will be televised between ESPN and ESPN2.

Former major league pitcher Orel Hershiser is returning to ESPN as a game and studio analyst. He last worked for the network in 2001.

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Paul Christian is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He writes a weekly Friday column dealing with TV and radio sports and can be reached at pchristian@postbulletin.com

A variety of sources was used to compile this column.

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