Indy 500 Broadcast Crew Discusses Sunday’s Race

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

This Sunday, ABC will mark a big anniversary. The network will broadcast the famed Indy 500 for the 50th consecutive year. In anticipation of the upcoming anniversary, Rich Feinberg–ESPN VP of Motorsports and Production–held a conference call with members of the media to discuss the race, its history on ABC, and much more. Feinberg was joined on the call by Allen Bestwick, who will call the race for the very first time in his career, and by Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. All three men will be in the booth for Sunday’s race. The following is the transcript of yesterday’s discussion with members of the media. From the history of the race’s broadcast to the introduction of new drivers and re-introduction of others and more, the men discuss a number of topics. That’s all here. Sunday’s broadcast of the Indy 500 begins with pre-race coverage at 11am ET. The green flag is expected to fly at 12:12pm ET. Enjoy!

RICH FEINBERG: 50 years on ABC.  For me, that starts with a ‘Wow.’  What a run.  My personal memories of the Indy 500 and ABC’s coverage of it date back to when I was a kid.  Memorial Day weekends with my family, appointment viewing.  Those days it was on a tape delay at night.  To see it come around now to the 50-year anniversary is just amazing.

Our team looks at it like it’s a privilege to produce the Indy 500.  It always has been.  It always will be.  It’s a cherished assignment that everybody embraces.  Our goal is quite simple, and that’s to uphold the tradition of excellence in coverage that’s been established by our ABC colleagues over the past 49 years.

That may sound a bit cliché, but it’s a fact.  We do that by focusing our coverage on the drivers and their stories, their team’s race strategy.  Perhaps the most intriguing thing for the casual fan, that’s the speed.  When you’re talking about cars doing over 230 miles an hour, that’s an off-the-charts number.

Through our coverage, we want to make sure our viewers feel like they’re not only enjoying the race but thirsting to be there.  I look forward to being a part of it as I do every year.

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  The history for me, when I was a young kid, my dad had racecars at a racetrack in Seekonk, Massachusetts.  Didn’t get much racing on television then, except for the Indianapolis 500.  That was appointment television for us.  As a young boy, watching this race every year sparked my fascination with the broadcasting business, in particular as I continued to follow, watching Jim McKay, the role he played, the variety of sports he did, the excellence with which he did them, and how much you felt like even though you never met him, he was a friend through the television.

So for me all these years later to get a chance to sit in that seat on this occasion, it’s not just bucket list, it’s beyond bucket list.  It’s a little overwhelming to think about how fortunate I am and how honored I am to be part of this.

I can’t wait for Sunday.  It’s been a wonderful month so far and I really look forward to a great race.

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I can certainly remember the very first time I went to Indianapolis in 1973 with my father.  It was a bit of a surprise visit because I was racing a go-kart and he surprised me on the Saturday night and said, We’re not racing tomorrow, we’re going to drive all night and go to the Indianapolis 500.  It has been a part of my life for a long time.

Then having a chance to go there as a rookie in 1990 as a driver was pretty cool.  Having some reasonable success there, and now having an opportunity as I have done for many years to be in the booth with ABC is truly a privilege.  When we get together for meetings, there’s a lot of passion and pride to being involved in this race.

For me, I view this race now from the television booth almost like a driver.  There are the super teams that you anticipate will do well, there are teams in the middle of the road that have a good shot at it, then there are teams there participating, if they’re in the top 10 at the end of the day they feel pretty lucky.

The split between group one and group two seems like it’s been shrinking for the past couple years.  This year, smaller teams winning some events, Long Beach and the Indy GP, that might be true this weekend.

Ed Carpenter, surprising everybody.  Neat to do qualifying, see the frustration on the big teams’ faces because they are missing some answers.

Indianapolis is all about the weather literally, the sense of what it can do to your racecar; emotions, what it can do to you as a driver.  That’s just qualifying.  The race is no different.

What I watched in practice yesterday from the group racing, last year practice shows it’s going to have the same thing for this coming Indy 500.  Excited about it.

Somebody asked me the other day, Pick a winner.  I don’t think I can.  I think there’s an honest 10, 12 people that can win this event.  Eddie and I were talking about it.  If you were betting in Vegas, it would be hard to put your money on somebody.  Looking forward to it.

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I dreamed about it as a child when I was living in Italy, I heard it on the radio.  I kept racing.  I was lucky to come here and race.  I was lucky enough to win it.  Now I’m going to be sitting in the booth with two friends calling the 50th anniversary of ABC calling the Indy 500.  I don’t know how it could be any better than that.

It’s going to be a very exciting race.  There’s too many stories to sit down and go through them one by one, so many different possibilities, that I really think it’s going to go down as one of the most exciting races we’ve ever had at Indy.  And when you consider how we ended last lap, the result would have probably changed if the race would have gone another 400 yards, and I expect we’ll see the same thing on Sunday.

 

Q.         Eddie and Scott, there’s two names that have returned this year that link back to some important moments in IndyCar recent history, with Villeneuve coming back, and Montoya being back.  What do you think about having both of those names back in the field?  Have you heard from fans?  Do you feel there’s a different vibe having them back? 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  They’re two totally different types of drivers.  They have been extremely successful in Formula One.  Villeneuve is a Formula One world champion, which in my books is as high as it gets in open-wheel racing.

I knew Villeneuve’s father very well when we were racing together in Formula One.  I remember driving back around in a car where I was doing the steering and — he was doing the steering and I was doing the throttle.  I was never pushing on the throttle strong enough.

I have a great interest in seeing him do very well.  I think he’ll approach the race differently.  He’s with a smaller team.  He already looks like he’s starting to think about how he will prepare himself for those last laps.

A lot of people have gravitated to him during the race.  As the race goes on, people will remember the great win he had not too long ago.

Montoya is racing for Penske.  He’s committed to the series for the whole season, whereas Villeneuve is committed for one race for the moment.

He’s had an exciting beginning, but not quite up to pace where everybody expected him to do well.  He all of a sudden laid down a very good lap on the day of qualifying.

I think you’ll really see a lot of aggressive moves from Montoya early on.  He’s going for a perfect record, having competed only twice.  I really think he has a good chance of winning.

There’s a lot of excitement whenever you mention the word ‘Montoya’ in the pits, even amongst the drivers.  Whereas Villeneuve, he’s going to have to build that back up, but there’s a lot of respect for what he has done.

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I think everything Eddie said is spot on.  The interesting thing for me is I had an opportunity to spend half an hour with Jacques in the garage area a week ago.  Through all the questions I was asking him, catching up with him, I asked him, Why come back to something that you’ve won, have great memories with?  Why come back after a 19-year absence?

He said, Racing is my oxygen.  I need to race something.  I loved it.  It didn’t really interest me for quite a few years.  But I’ve been watching it for the last year, year and a half, and he said it’s something he would like to go back to.

He said he would like to come back to the series next year and run full-time, if it’s possible.  If this is an audition to get his feet wet and make sure that he can go out and let people know his interest, it may be.  I’m not sure that if everybody is running strong at the end of the day that he has enough experience in these new cars, which he says are different to drive, to be a contender.  I think finishing in the top 10 would be a success for him and the team.

With Montoya, I’ll add to what Eddie said, every driver you speak to in the paddock says that when he has enough time underneath his belt in these cars, from being in the tin tops for the last little while, they’re going to worry that he’s going to be dominating like he was before, from the factor that he’ll be one of those guys you’ll be battling with in the top 3-5.  As.

The drivers say, they have enough drivers they have to contend with.  A lot of respect for Montoya in the garage area.

 

Q.         Is it good generally for the series to have both of those drivers back? 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I think it’s phenomenal, exceptional.  Montoya brings a lot of Formula One sense.  Montoya brings a lot of people back to watching open-wheel racing.

Villeneuve, I can’t repeat it enough, was a Formula One champion.  His father was, I would say, one of the top three drivers that ever drove for Ferrari.  The history, the whole amount of energy they bring is tremendous to anything they participate in.

 

Q.         This is the first time we have a youngster from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, not named Andretti.  I wanted Scott and Eddie’s take on the young Sage Karam, in high school still.  Your thoughts of his challenges, how he might add to the storyline on Sunday. 

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  When I met him earlier this month and spent some time with him, speaking with him in the garage, nice young man.  At 19 years of age, times have changed, because at 19, I was just finishing karting and about ready to take my first day of Formula Ford school.

We were talking about this on our conference call this morning.  They almost have harnessed him back a little bit because the team says he is very eager to get going and is trying to get so much accomplished in a short amount of time.

As a rookie here, you can be very fast.  But 500 miles is such a long, long time on the racetrack.  I always broke it up into five 100-mile races.  You have to get yourself through it and not rush.

This will be interesting for Villeneuve and Montoya.  It’s been a while since they’ve come here and run this race.  Everybody is anxious.  Seems like it happens between 250 and 300 miles.  Everybody seems like they want to get going.  I always did.

For him as a rookie, he’s going to have to be throttled back, have somebody good with him on the radio talking to him, his spotter is going to have to do well.  He has enthusiasm, good looks, an American, so he has a bright future ahead of him.

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  Just to add to what Scott said, talent and youth and energy are wonderful things to have.  Don’t really fit in that well in how you approach the Indy 500.  Here you have to have an enormous amount of patience.  You have to be willing to listen to the pits.  You have to be able to pick yourself up from a bad stint with the tires not working or you have some sort of problem.

It will be a great testament to his ability if he can finish the 500.

We saw another youngster last year from Colombia called Munoz, Scott and I were betting which lap he was going to crash because he was almost in the grass, but he made it.

Those things that carry you forward in open-wheel racing on a street course don’t really come much into play around the Speedway.

 

Q.         Marco Andretti, your take on Marco?  Seems like he can’t get over the hump.  Very close, very much in contention for a good portion of the race last year.  It just didn’t happen for him.  Same thing happened a couple weeks later at Pocono where he had the dominant car all weekend.  Seems like he’s there every week. 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  He is always a threat to win.  It’s his family’s team.  He has been very quick.  His rookie year at Indy was unbelievable.  He lost by the smallest of margins.  He is unfortunate in that he has some incredibly talented teammates.

He’s really going to be judged not so much by the fact that he wins or doesn’t win, but how he compares with his teammates.  That’s a tall order.

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I would be delighted to see Marco win from the standpoint that I understand what it’s like to come to win this event, but not, obviously in ’92 and ’97 being second, obviously ’95 across the line first and being disqualified.

Regardless, it’s a scenario that weighs on you every racetrack you go to.  It weighs on you when you come back here to the Indianapolis 500.  For him, I’m sure he thinks about it.  I talked to him about it.  He said, No, it’s behind me, I don’t think about it too much.

But you do.  I always looked at it like you’ll get another chance.  I’m sure he feels the same way.

When you get close to the end of your career, then when you retire, and you haven’t accomplished that goal, which is the reason your living, breathing and racing, and your last name is Andretti, and the pressure that’s on a third-generation driver, I would love to see him win.  It would be great for him, his family, and our sport to have Andretti win again.

 

Q.         Allen, from everything I understand, Kurt Busch is resonating well with the fans and other drivers at Indy.  Have you noticed anything different in his demeanor or mannerisms or attitude when he’s out there in an IndyCar than you’ve noticed when he’s maybe in the NASCAR garage. 

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I think anytime you go someplace and try something new and different for the first time, have a little bit of success at it, you’re going to have a little pep in your step.

Think about how much Kurt has hung himself out there by doing this.  I’ll borrow Eddie’s thought about this.  Here is a guy who is a NASCAR champion.  All the race wins he’s accumulated.  He was willing to put that reputation out there on the line for the world to step out and try and drive a type of racecar he’d never driven before.

I’ve seen nothing but good things from Kurt.  I see a guy who is determined to master it, has fit in very well with his teammates, has dug into the engineering, the aerodynamics, driving techniques, soaked it up like a sponge, acquitted himself very, very well in an IndyCar.  I’m not surprised by that.  We know Kurt is a heck of a racecar driver.

I’m not surprised he’s acquitted himself well.  He’s having fun.  He understands the challenge ahead of him.  He got a taste of the difficulty of that challenge yesterday.  You can say he’s gotten the full Indy experience now.

But I’ve seen nothing but smiles from Kurt.  Why not, right?  He had the guts to put himself out there and try this.  He’s doing well.  He has the opportunity to have a good, solid race experience on Sunday and do something he probably never thought he’d get the chance to do in his life.  I can relate to that.  It makes you smile.

 

Q.         Eddie, I’ve seen some of your comments in recent weeks.  What are your impressions of Kurt in an IndyCar? 

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  I am totally impressed by everything he has done in the car.  Going out and turning into turn one when you’re up at speed, and engineers have told you, Don’t take your foot off the throttle, you’re talking to yourself telling yourself it’s going to be okay.  That’s a difficult moment even in a racecar driver that’s done it his whole life, to be committed to doing that.

He’s been incredibly fast.  Every hurdle he got to, other than yesterday, when he got very lucky and hit the wall at the right angle.  Other than that, I am just impressed.  When he had to go out and do his qualifying run, that’s 230, that is really moving the mail.  That’s fast.  Turning into turn one at 236 miles an hour, and everybody said that the cars were sliding at the end of their run because they were so much on the limit trying to trim them out.  He went and did it as if he’s been doing it his whole life.

He is talented and incredibly brave.  If he digests this last hit he had, it took me a long time to digest, if he can go through that, he’s in that leading group at the end of the race, I would consider him a possible top-three finisher, if he gets through all the problems during the race.  But he’s been incredible.  I’m very impressed.

 

Q.         Rich, 92 cameras planned.  Why the increase this year?  Are any of those specialty cameras? 

 

RICH FEINBERG:  The 92 is actually in concert pretty close to what we did last year.  36 of those cameras are on racecars.  We will have this year a complement of 12 different teams, including Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter, all carrying on-camera systems.  All 36 are on track, if you would.

The remaining cameras include some specialty things.  We will have a helicopter cam for the entire race.  We have several ultraslow motion cameras that we have strategically placed around the track.  We have wall cams.  We have grass cams.  We have hand-held cams.  We have robotic cams.  I think we got the place pretty well wired up.

The unique thing about this race, racing in general, is the size of the playing field is gigantic, so it takes more.  We’re always watching multiple things.  A lot of our camera systems allow us to focus on multiple battles on the track to make sure we can document as much of the action as we can for the fans.

It is a very large production, one of the largest that we do every year.  Tremendous credit to our technical and engineering staff to put together this system and ultimately I think our fans are the benefactors of it.

 

Q.         Are there any other production enhancements planned? 

 

RICH FEINBERG:  Well, we’ve made some changes since we were at the track last.  I’d start with probably the most noticeable one for our fans will be welcoming Allen Bestwick to the family.  Allen and I have worked together for many, many years.  I know not only he’s excited about doing the project, but I’m just as excited to have him along.  He’s one of the best in the business, and I think our fans will really enjoy his call.

We have some new graphic elements we’re using.  We have some good feature stories we’ll tell before we get going with the race.  As I said earlier, our ultimate job is to tell the stories of the drivers, and to the best of our ability, through the pictures and through the sounds, create that thirst for our viewers to want to be there and enjoy this very special sporting event.

 

Q.         Allen, you’ve had a very long career in calling NASCAR races.  How does it feel to be in the open-wheel world now? 

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  It feels pretty good.  It’s been a great experience so far.  It’s funny because for as long as I’ve been around racing, I’ve spent my whole career in the month of May in Charlotte basically and watched the 500 from afar.

I’ve been at the Speedway, around the NASCAR race there since 1994, so when I walked in the gate this month, it wasn’t a new experience for me to be at the Speedway.  I knew where the gate was to get in and I knew where the TV compound was, where the booth was.  I knew where to find things.  It’s not a completely new experience at the Speedway.

Then I’ve had great support from Rich and my bosses to do the research that I needed to do.  I spent time in Indianapolis in February just after the Daytona 500.  Some of the race teams were more than gracious in welcoming me in.  I went through IndyCars from top to bottom at team shops.  Had dinners and lunches with drivers and team managers.  I’ve had plenty of time to acclimate myself – short way to say it – the same thing done differently.

It’s still an auto race.  The object is still to get the distance covered from start to finish in the least amount of time possible.  Terminology, styles, strategies are a little different.

I look forward to the race.  Obviously it’s the premiere auto race in the United States, maybe the world, every year.  To have the opportunity to call it is a fascinating thing.  I’m more excited than anything because it’s been a great experience so far.  I can’t wait to see what race day is like in person.

 

Q.         For Scott and Eddie, obviously you have a lot of experience on both sides.  There’s so many changes in TV in 50 years.  Probably what hasn’t changed much is the raw talent that open-wheel drivers share.  What special traits do you think open-wheel drivers have to be able to perform so well in what is basically a road rocket before enormous crowds on prime ABC TV? 

 

SCOTT GOODYEAR:  I think for me, now that I’ve stepped away from it, I honestly believe that you can be trained to be a very good, proficient driver that can compete at IndyCar level.  But I think the ones that are winning and are just a little bit faster have something different.  I think it might be something that you’re just born with.

There’s been that question for years and years, especially when we talk about different generations of drivers.  When you stand at a road course, you watch a guy like Will Power drive around, even his fellow competitors say that they expect him to be on pole everywhere they go to on a road course.

You go to ovals and see the smoothness of guys like Scott Dixon, and honestly a very impressive Ed Carpenter.  Ed obviously trained hard, not through the road courses, because he’s not that great on a road course, but he spent so many years doing the midgets and the dirt cars.

I think it’s training and then I think you have to have a little bit of a gift.

With that I think I am more impressed now than I was when I was doing it.  When you’re doing it, you eat, breathe and sleep it.  You expect to be good.  You expect to be competitive.  You don’t feel that you’re doing anything different than anybody else ’cause you’re getting up, going and doing your job every day.

It’s only when you step away from it like I have, and maybe Eddie feels this way, you truly understand how different your occupation was when you’re sitting in a racecar.

Our racecar happened to weigh 1500 pounds and have in our day 900 horsepower, now they’re about 725.  And, oh, yeah, as Eddie mentioned earlier, we go into turn one at 230, 240 miles an hour and don’t take our foot off the gas.

The last comment I’ll make on all that is when you’re doing it back then, it seems like it’s in slow motion.  It seems like the straightaways are long, and I guess that’s what I guess they call being in the zone in other sports.

When you’re getting ready to retire, you notice that life is going by a little quicker in the racecar than it did before.  That’s probably the first indication it’s time to go find something else to do.

I know how difficult it is, I know how brave you are when you’re doing it.  That’s the neat thing I think when I watch the cars go around today.

 

EDDIE CHEEVER:  Having raced for a decade in Formula One, Monaco, Spa, everywhere else, then coming to Indy, I don’t say this trying to make a joke of it, I think you have to be a little bit crazy when you’re racing on the limit at the Indianapolis 500.

It is, I would say by far and away, the most dangerous and most intoxicating race that I have ever been a part of.  When you have to throw a car into a corner at 235 miles an hour, two feet behind a car that’s doing the same speed, another car that’s trying to pass you, do all this and stay away from that horribly hard wall, you have to be a little bit different.

The more time I had spent with A.J. Foyt, Unser, Andretti, there’s a common thread:  they’re all capable of dealing with the danger very well and yet perform at such a high level.

More information on coverage of this weekend’s Indy 500 is available online at http://espn.go.com/racing. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN NASCAR Coverage Continues With Special Interview

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s team of Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, and Allen Bestwick sat down with Julie Sobieski (ESPN VP – Programming & Acquisitions) and Rich Feinberg (ESPN VP – Motorsports, Production) during Wednesday’s media Day at Daytona International Speedway to discuss ESPN’s past, present and future with NASCAR, as well as other topics.  Included here is a full transcript of the group’s discussion courtesy of ESPN and NASCAR.  Thank you to both companies for allowing this transcript to be posted.  Enjoy!

 

JULIE SOBIESKI: There’s a tremendous buzz and excitement for the start of the season and for ESPN, we’re really thrilled to be a part of it this year, as we were six years ago, getting back into the sport, and as we’ve been for over the last 20 plus years as an integral part of the NASCAR sport.

 

The value to ESPN still starts with the great racing on the track and the drivers themselves, but as a media company, for us it now extends far beyond the telecast of the races themselves, across our multitude of platforms, from news and information to ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile, ESPN W initiative that we have.  The new women’s initiative is now actively following the story with Danica and also with Johanna Long, ESPN Radio and ESPN Magazine.  We’re just thrilled with all the buzz and excitement heading into this weekend and happy to be here.

 

RICH FEINBERG:  As always, it’s a privilege for our production team to be here in Daytona.  It’s a special place for a lot of people, and that includes every one of us.

 

Really it’s been a short 13 week off season for us as it has been for many of you, where Brad K won his first championship in Homestead, as well as Roger Penske winning his first Sprint Cup championship, that was an exciting time for us and our team to broadcast to all race fans and ESPN fans.

 

Over the past 13 weeks, our team has been working hard to make all our plans for the 2013 season.  Delighted that our entire talent group will be returning again this year, the same group that we’ve had last year, and that includes Carl Edwards will be joining us as a booth analyst for several Nationwide races throughout the season.  We’re delighted to have Carl with us.

 

NASCAR and ESPN continues to be an important partnership for our company and our weekly productions of both the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series are by far the largest technical productions our company does on any sport that we cover.  We’re proud to take on that challenge, and we think that our efforts manifest itself on the air quite well.

 

We kick it all off this Saturday at noon with ESPN coverage of the Nationwide race.  As many of you know, last year’s Nationwide race here at Daytona was a great start to our season, and in fact it was the most viewed Nationwide race ever on cable television, delivering over 4.4 million viewers, so we hope that we will continue that energy going into 2013. We’re really looking forward to the season, and thank you all for being here.

 

Q. Allen Bestwick, there’s been a lot of talk during the winter with all the announcements about who’s competing in the Nationwide Series, about what a stacked field it is, what are your thoughts on that?

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I know everyone’s attention has been focused on the Gen 6 car and everything that’s been going on in the Sprint Cup Series, but we had a conversation on Tuesday as we got ready to come down here thinking about the Nationwide Series and what are the stories.  And my two partners here, one of them, Andy (Petree), said, you know, really this is shaping up to be the best season ever for the Nationwide Series, and Dale (Jarrett) jumped in and said, and I think this is shaping up to be the best ever Nationwide race at Daytona.

 

Now, think about their history at this race and in this sport, and they’re not prone to overstatement.  So for them to say this could be the best season ever for the Nationwide Series ever, and this could be the best Daytona race ever for the Nationwide Series, in my admittedly somewhat sleepy mode with our morning conference call, I sat up and said, whoa, that’s a big deal, and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

 

Q. For Andy, along those lines, the rules differences between the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series.  Can you talk a little bit about how the races are going to be so different?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Yeah, this race here at Daytona I think for the Nationwide Series is going to be a lot different than what we’re going to see on Sunday.  I think it’s going to be a lot like what we saw last year with the Nationwide cars, a lot of pushing, a lot of tandem drafting, the finish was incredible last year, let’s hope it’s not quite that incredible with so many cars getting tore up.  But that’s what you’re going to see in the Nationwide race, you’re going to see a lot of that, and I think you’re going to see a whole different style of drafting on Sunday with the new Gen 6 car, so I think the fans are going to be a lot of variety this weekend, a lot of different style of racing.

 

This is my seventh season now with ESPN, and like Allen said, I think it really does have the potential to be the best Nationwide season we’ve ever seen, and I’m really excited to cover it.  I always get excited for Daytona, and I can’t wait for Saturday.

 

MODERATOR: Both Andy and Dale Jarrett have 20 year anniversaries going on.  This is the 20th anniversary of Dale’s first of three Daytona 500 wins.  He won the ’93 race for Joe Gibbs Racing and Andy was the crew chief of the car that he passed right at the end with Dale Earnhardt, and he’s still sore about that.  And also this is the 20th anniversary of the first Sprint Cup championship that Andy won as a crew chief with Dale Earnhardt.  And one more for Dale Jarrett, this is five years since he drove his last Daytona 500 in ’08, so a lot going on for you, Dale.

 

DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, there is a lot going on, but just glad to be back here and a lot of exciting things happening and going on.  We are excited about the Nationwide Series.  As you look at the lineup, it’s just incredible to think what it could come down to whenever we get back to Florida in November as to the championship battle that we may be seeing.  But it’s all going to start here Saturday, and I do believe that we have potential to see something maybe that we haven’t seen before.  We kind of saw that last year, and I don’t know what you do to top that with the guy running 11th coming out of Turn 4 wins the race, but I think the potential is there to be even more exciting, so really looking forward to that, and it’s been nice, kind of reliving that 20 years ago that it happened with Joe Gibbs Racing, Andy not so much maybe, but it was a very, very special day, and this has been tremendously successful place and proud place for the Jarrett family over the years, and just glad to be back here.

 

 

Q.  For Rich, how many races do you think Carl is going to be doing, and what makes Carl what do you like about him in the booth?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  Right now looks to be about three.  We’re still kind of finalizing the schedule, and it’s one of those things that evolves as the season goes on.  Obviously his priority is competition.  What I like about him is the currency.  He’s currently racing in the series and is a competitor on the track, and the ability to speak to that in real time to our viewers as a driver as well as the charisma that I think he brings to the screen is something that we value in our telecast.

 

Q.  But you don’t know which three yet?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  We’re still working on that.

 

Q.  And for Andy or Dale or anybody, what’s going to make this Nationwide season so good?  What guys are you looking at?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, I think the championship battle in particular you’ve got Regan Smith that’s coming over to JR Motorsports.  We saw what he could do in the last racer at Homestead.  I expect him to be a really tough competitor for the championship.  We’ve got Travis Pastrana that’s going to run.  We’ve got so many different storylines.  I just think we’ve got a lot of strength out there.  You’ve got Elliott Sadler now with Gibbs, still hungry to win that championship.  I just think we’re going to see a really great championship battle.

 

DALE JARRETT:  You’ve got Vickers over there at Gibbs.  You’ve got Austin Dillon obviously last year showed he could be a part of that championship battle.  Kyle Larson is coming in and nothing but good things being said about him, really looking forward to watching him move along here and seeing that progress.

 

The last few years the championship battle has been good between Stenhouse and Sadler, but I think we’re going to see a lot more company up front, and that always is more exciting.

 

Q.  Dale, I’m sure you’re aware that all three winners over here crashed somebody on the last lap without penalty.  Does that send a message to Nationwide drivers and Cup drivers and Truck drivers that last lap, white flag, anything goes, if they can do it over there, why can’t we do it?

 

DALE JARRETT:  Well, I don’t know about how NASCAR will view that, and as a driver, I don’t know that you just take something that you see out there and say    I think it’s kind of how you grew up and the situation that you’re in.  Trying to do that on the two and a half mile racetrack here obviously creates a lot more danger than doing it back there on four tenths of a mile track at the speeds that they were running.  I think you have to pick and choose that.

 

But I think NASCAR over the last few years has kind of opened that up.  I’m not going to steal Robin’s line, let the boys have at it or whatever, but I think that they’ve opened it up to where they like that aggression.  That’s what got this sport where it is.  I’m not saying that what took place back there was all okay.  And I think that sometimes there’s ways of doing it without it being so noticeable, but I think that it’s    that that opportunity is out there, but you’re putting yourself in a position.

 

I think that there’s a lot that NASCAR will let go by, but you’re also putting yourself in a position for them to make a call, and sometimes that call will go for you and you have to be willing to accept the penalty if it does come down.

 

Q.  For Rich, how closely are you watching this track drying apparatus be developed, and how big a deal is it for TV to get back to racing quicker?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  I’ve seen the equipment, but I haven’t really been involved or been asked my opinion about it.  From a broadcasting and production point of view, it’s really amazing how long NASCAR fans will stay with a telecast during a rain delay.  Obviously less rain delays and more competition on the track is what fans want to see.

 

But it’s always amazed me, I think back maybe 15, 16 years ago when there were extensive rain delays, our network would go to standby programming, perhaps a race from the week before or the race from the year before, and what we hear from the audiences these days is they don’t want that, they want continuing live coverage.  We get tremendous cooperation from the teams, the drivers, from NASCAR, and the access is unbelievable in this sport.  So it does give us a chance to sort of dive deeper into stories and talk to the drivers more and offer their thoughts.  But at the end of the day, if the track drying process can be expedited and we can get back to competition quicker, we know that’s what the fans want to see.

 

DALE JARRETT:  I think our pit reporters and probably pit studio will be glad that it’s going to happen a little quicker, although they do a terrific job.

 

Q.  Dale and Andy, as former driver, former crew chief, former car owner, what’s the conversation like tomorrow, the gamble versus going all out and try to win the thing?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, I’ll speak from a crew chief/car owner’s point of view, I’ve never put a car on the racetrack that I didn’t want to go win, no matter what.  That would be my mindset is to go win that 150 mile race, and everything else takes care of itself.  Now, there is going to be some risk to do that it looks like.  I still want to go win.  There’s good cars in the truck; I’m sure you can win from the back, and starting on the front row is kind of nice.  You don’t lose the prestige of actually qualifying on the front by having to go to a backup car, but it does make your job Sunday a little tougher, but I’ve never put a car out there that I didn’t go try to win.

DALE JARRETT:  The great thing is for Danica and that team for three days they’ve had the wonderful opportunity to talk about being the fastest car here and her the fastest driver.  It’s been a great thing for our sport.  Now comes the issues with that very same thing that got you there and got you all of this attention is how do you handle this.  It would be a real letdown if something were to happen.  But these cars are difficult to drive here, and the drivers that I’ve talked to    but with the limited experience that she has, she needs to be out there practicing today, and she needs to run in the race on Thursday as much as she can, and if something should happen, then they’ll just have to deal with that.  They still know they won the pole and they had the fastest car.  She needs the experience out there in race conditions as much as she possibly can to get herself ready for Sunday, to get the best finish and opportunity to get herself in the best position.

 

As much drafting as she probably, she has a lot of experience in stock cars here and was really showing a lot of potential here, but these cars drive so differently by what these drivers are telling me that there’s a lot more for her to kind of learn now, unlearn some of the things that she did learn there, and get with what it takes to drive this Gen 6 car and be fast.  They’ve just got to throw that aside.  They won the pole, they were the fastest car, they built the fastest car, now they’ve got to get her ready to race on Sunday.

 

Q.  For Andy, as a former car owner, years ago the Nationwide Series financially, the teams were in a lot of trouble, but as you said, you pointed out the number of drivers, the number of farm teams for the Cup teams, the standalone teams, what’s changed, and especially in a time of economic distress for the Cup teams?  Why is this field so full from an economic standpoint?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, you’re probably digging into it a little deeper than I have.  I don’t really know.  I don’t have a good answer for that.  But I know the economics are different in the Nationwide Series than they are in the Cup Series.  There might be some sponsors out there, a lot of sponsors that maybe can participate at that level, and it’s a high level in the Nationwide Series where it wouldn’t necessarily be gnat Sprint Cup Series.

 

Maybe that’s some of it.  We’ve got great talent that has kind of found themselves out in the Sprint Cup garage, like Regan Smith.  He’s a great talent.  Now he’s over here in the Nationwide Series.  That’s good for the Nationwide Series.  I don’t really have a good answer for the economics of it.  Maybe it’s a sign of good times to come.

 

Q.  Julie, what’s ESPN’s position on renegotiating the television contracts with NASCAR?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  Well, I said in my opening statement, we have a long history with this sport.  We’re certainly interested in continuing our relationship with NASCAR.  There’s no secret we want to continue that conversation with these guys.  We still have two years left of the deal that we’re in now.  Our negotiating window doesn’t begin until later this year.  So right now we’re excited about the start of the season and we’re putting all of our efforts toward that.

 

Q.  I know there’s three television partners.  Would you want to pick up that middle section of six races?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I think right now our opportunity is to look at the package that we have now, and that’s the conversation that’s looking in front of us.  Depending on how that conversation goes, there’s certainly lots of different ways to have discussions.  We don’t know what NASCAR’s interests are, but right now we’re looking at that for the first conversation that we have.

 

Q.  And then the second question is about the ratings, particularly the Chase ratings.  I figure that finale probably was disappointing considering it was a good championship race, so the ratings effort was disappointing considering it was a great race and you had a great new champion.  What does ESPN want to see happen coming off the year before when you had the big impressive number and the great Chase?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I mean, certainly back in 2011, that was a huge number for us, and the stars perfectly aligned for that number to sort of come together.  I think we all want the ratings to be bigger and better on any sport, on any given occasion.  We’re never satisfied, and I don’t think NASCAR ever is, either.  But the ratings are still extremely strong week in and week out, particularly at that time of year with a tremendous amount of competition.  Brad is a great champion, and we think he’s going to continue to serve in that role all year.  We think there’s going to be another great championship battle, but there’s been several great battles now over the last few years.  We’re looking forward to that continuing.  Competition on the track ultimately is what gets people interested and star power and storylines that transcend sport, and we’re looking at one of those right now with Danica leading CNN and The Today Show and others.  I mean, we couldn’t be asking for more now.  We just have to hope for a fantastic race on Sunday, and the season will take care of itself.

 

Q.  Julie, you guys have not started negotiations with NASCAR yet; is that fair?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  Yeah, we’re always in conversations with NASCAR.  We’ve been in conversations with them since the day we started our relationship, but our formal window has not begun.

 

Q.  The scuttlebutt is that you and NBC are kind of the ones being talked about for the remainder of the schedule after the FOX block.  Would it make sense for ESPN maybe to move up a little bit and do like the midseason range versus the late season range because you guys have so much stuff in late season, and do you feel as if the Nationwide Series and the job you’ve done there, does that give you some leverage with NASCAR to say, hey, you can keep that platform there and we’ll take whatever chunk you want to give us for Cup?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I’m going to let you do the speculating.  Like I said, we’re happy with the relationship that we have with NASCAR.  We want to continue those conversations.  Carving up a package is not necessarily our role.  We’re going to have discussions with NASCAR over the year and as we get closer, Nationwide is a fantastic property.  It’s very strong.  The ratings have been strong since the moment we got it and it continues to get stronger, and everything that our great hosts and analysts here have said about this season continues to make it that much stronger, but so is the Cup Series.  And so we’re going to look at this as one large discussion that extends across all of our platforms, and we’ll have that discussion with NASCAR outside of the press.

 

Q.  Andy, Danica obviously has a lot to learn here over the next week or so, but she’s got a team made up of a lot of guys who have won a lot of races, guys who have won Daytona 500s.  In terms of being one thing she doesn’t have to worry about, how big of a comfort do you think that is?

 

ANDY PETREE:  I think that’s a comfort, that she’s got a great team and team owner, all those good people around her, and I think every driver in the garage is trying to help her.  But she’s got more experience here than any other track that she’s raced at in a stock car.  I think it’s going to serve her well.  Nobody has more experience in this Gen 6 car than she does, and everybody has got to learn how to handle it, and this next practice is going to tell a lot about that.

 

But I think she’s got a big advantage here.  I think this is one of her best tracks to really shine and to have a legitimate shot at winning.  I think to say she’s a favorite, I wouldn’t say that, but she is on the pole, she’s got a chance to win.  And I think she’s got a chance just like anybody, but I think this is probably her best track to do that.

 

Q.  Julie, as far as the Nationwide Series goes, what is the challenge of trying to juggle schedules with a series on four networks throughout the year, and then Andy, can you talk about Tony Gibson and where you think his strengths are and why you think he might be successful with Danica?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I think to start with the juggling, we’re fortunate enough at ESPN to have multiple platforms to carry our programming.  I don’t look at that as a disadvantage, I look at that as a strong advantage for us to be able to do that.

 

ANDY PETREE:  You’re talking about Tony Gibson, and I’m a big fan of his.  He’s a real seat of the pants type crew chief, a lot like I was.  I think he’s a great people motivator.  I think he’s got a lot of confidence in Danica’s ability.  He’s had a lot of experience with different drivers, and I think he’s got a lot to bring to the table.  He’s very good technically and just has a way of getting a car right, and I think he’ll do a really good job for Danica.

 

Q.  Andy and Dale, is it difficult for you guys as you become further removed from the car and it has continued to evolve?  How do you stay up on what you would assume the car is doing or what guys are having to do to the cars to make them competitive today?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, it’s just the relationships that we have in the garage area.  I’ve got a lot of good friends in there, a lot of guys that have been crew chiefs for a long time and actually a lot of the new guys.  And I’ve tried to stay very involved technically in the cars.

 

In my retirement, after I was a team owner and crew chief, I was building these suspension test rigs for all the Cup teams and Nationwide teams, and almost all of them now have it.  So I’ve been in these shops a lot.  I deal with a lot of the engineering staffs, a lot of the crew chiefs.  I talk to them on a technical level when I’m in the garage area.  It’s my passion.  I really enjoy the cars, so I really stay up on it.

 

I mean, just last year I built one of these modified cars because I wanted to build one.  Never driven one.  I built one, tried to go race it a time or two, and then sold it.  That’s the way I do it.  I really like to be hands on, so I do that some.  But I do stay very connected in the garage.

 

DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, my way is just fortunately I’ve made more friends than enemies from the driver standpoint through my career.  So I can go and call these guys, go to their bus, talk to them.  I try not to bother them too much in the garage area because they’re working there.  But they give me a lot of information there.  And even though the race cars have changed certainly now with this new car in particular, I can understand when they’re telling me something about the cars and get that.  As they’ve changed some of these racetracks, they’re very good to sit down with me and tell me about what used to be the feel and what used to happen at these tracks.  So yeah, I’ve been removed now a little over five years from actually being inside these race cars and these tracks, I still drive my school car some just to have an idea of that.  But that doesn’t give me the idea of what they’re going through, but it is those relationships and friendships that I think help me keep kind of current with that so I can undertand what they’re talking about.  So fortunately these drivers are very good at giving me information and those friendships mean a lot to Andy and I both.

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