The NBC anchor and die-hard NASCAR fan, 44, is part owner of a
dirt-modified stock car team in Belgrade, Mont.
SI: Last fall you took a couple of laps around Talladega
Superspeedway in a Winston Cup car and got up to 181 miles per
hour. Describe that feeling.
Williams: It was--I'm tearing up here--as close to the highest
ranking bodily act as you can get. All your senses are working at
full capacity, yet in a way, the wall is passing by so quickly
that every second feels likes a documentary.
SI: How did the ride compare to Air Force One?
Williams: The seats recline a bit more on Air Force One, and the
beverage selection is better. But the ride can't be compared. We
once dipped a wing over the pyramids of Egypt because President
Clinton wanted to see them. That's the closest thing you could
compare to the banking at Talladega.
SI: Any politician you would call a real NASCAR fan?
Williams: Arizona senator Jon Kyl. He's a true gearhead. He's one
SI: Are you a NASCAR dad?
Williams: As patronizing as it is when we label groups of
people--my wife resented being called a soccer mom, for
example--I guess I am. I go to races. We bring the kids. I buy
stuff. But will seeing a candidate's name on the side of a car
make me support him? I am happy to report that while I love Mark
Martin, I have not ever purchased any Viagra.
SI: You were friends with the late Dale Earnhardt. What's your
favorite memory of him?
Williams: At Talladega [in 1999] my son Douglas [then eight]
asked to touch his car for luck before the race. Later I watched
Dale hoist him in Victory Lane. The toughest part of knowing Dale
was having my son ask for months after [Dale's death] if there
was any chance he would wake up.
SI: When do you take over for Tom Brokaw as the anchor of NBC
Williams: Probably after the election, before Dec. 1.
SI: Any thought of using a NASCAR-related catchphrase to sum up
the Nightly News broadcast?
Williams: I'd like to say, "Keep it out of the infield," but I
don't think that will go over with a mainstream audience.
For more from Brian Williams, go to si.com/siexclusive.
COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN/GT IMAGES (WILLIAMS) Went 180 at Talladega