Indy 500: ESPN on ABC teleconference, part 1

Transcript of ESPN on ABC Indianapolis 500 Media Conference Call EDITOR'S NOTE -- A media conference call was held today to discuss ESPN on ABC's live telecast of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24, beginning at noon ET. Participants on the...

Transcript of ESPN on ABC Indianapolis 500 Media Conference Call

EDITOR'S NOTE -- A media conference call was held today to discuss ESPN on ABC's live telecast of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24, beginning at noon ET. Participants on the call were ESPN senior vice president and executive producer, Jed Drake, along with the three members of ESPN's booth for the telecast: lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid and analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. this is the 45th consecutive year that the Indianapolis 500 has aired on ABC.

JED DRAKE: I wanted to give everybody just a sense from the entire production team that is fortunate enough to be doing this event again this year and now for another four years, that it is truly a special event. There are very few events that you can just throw out their name and where there are images that stand in your mind that are vibrant and powerful and have that lasting memory. And the Indy 500 is absolutely positively one of those.

For me there are certain events that have that cache and for others I'm sure there are others. But given the nature of this event and its special quality that when virtually anybody hears the Indianapolis 500, it resonates a very powerful image for them. It certainly does for me and it certainly does for everybody that's involved in our coverage.

We treat this event with the kind of attention and care that it deserves and it is at the absolute top of our priorities each year in terms of what we bring to it, and certainly the announce team that we have assembled again for this year, with Marty, Scott and Eddie, and a great group of pit reporters, is a good testament to that.

I could go through all the images that are in my mind, but it's like a movie trailer in terms of those striking, lasting images. And I'm very pleased to be able to be at Indy again this year for the event. I'll just close by saying that I hope that our coverage lives up to the responsibilities that we have in televising it and we all walk in quite confident that that will be the case.

Q: Marty, what are your thoughts as you are again in the seat that people like Jim McKay and Keith Jackson and others have held over the years during ABC's 45 years at Indy?

MARTY REID: I think you touched on it and so did Jed. It's the legacy. For us it's 45 years and here we are celebrating the Centennial Era for the next few at the Speedway. When you realize you're a small piece of the chain that started back with Charlie Brockman in '65 through Chris Schenkel, Jim McKay and Keith Jackson, Jackie Stewart, Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, I mean, it's a huge responsibility, and, as Jed said, we take it very seriously. And we still want to have fun, but it's not just another race. It never will be.

Q: Scott Goodyear, you know very well this is not just another race. What are your thoughts as we go into another Indy for you in the broadcast booth?

SCOTT GOODYEAR: As a driver you always get that feeling in your stomach, the butterflies when you go through the tunnel the very first time you arrive there in May knowing that you have a chance to drive the track.

And I probably said this last year also, that it became a new sensation for me when I started television in 2002, because I got a chance to see all the pageantry that went on for the Indianapolis 500 from the television booth up off in the grandstand in 2002, something that obviously went on all those years that I drove there but I never saw because I was so tuned into just driving the race car.

So I think I have a better understanding and more appreciation for the Indianapolis 500 and the rich history that it has now that I'm involved in television, seeing it maybe through television eyes or spectator eyes, if you will, than I did when I was driving it as a race car driver.

And that appreciation I felt again this month when I drove underneath the tunnel to go to the Speedway when they were opening up for practice. And although I live in Indianapolis, with the exception of the month of May, I might drop down there once or twice a year. You go down maybe for meetings or around that area. You go past the Speedway, but the only time I think I ever really go inside the tunnel is to go to the museum maybe once a year in December to get some Christmas gifts out of the gift shop and what have you. So it certainly hits home again every time you pull in there in the month of May, and it's a very neat feeling.

Q: Eddie Cheever, last year we called you the rookie of the group. Now in your second year, did working as an analyst last year give you a new perspective and a new appreciation of the event?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Yes, yes, I did. It's obviously different than driving it, but if you've been going long enough, watching how the whole TV show was put together and all the effort that's put into it, it was definitely different perspective. I'm the cleanup crew. I always get to go last. There's not much left to say, but I agree with what everybody has said. It's an unbelievable event.

And at the end of it, it really comes down to we will be celebrating a new winner for the Indianapolis 500 and every sports fan or definitely every racing fan all over the world will know who it is probably five minutes after the event is over. So it's fun to be a part of that.

Q: Scott and Eddie, on what is the IRL's biggest day and how important is it that the two biggest stars, Helio and Danica, have an impact on this race? I mean, in terms of the livelihood of the sport in these times.

SCOTT GOODYEAR: I know we expect a lot out of those drivers and they out of themselves. From Helio's point of view no doubt we're paying attention to him simply because of what he's gone through in his personal life during this last little while. But I think it's fair to say that he's now back and maybe not so much at Long Beach or Kansas, but now that he's been here for the whole month and he didn't go back home throughout the month at all, he just stayed in this local area of Indianapolis. He's back and enjoying motor racing.

I think he's got more intensity and more love for the sport and driving race cars than he had before the issues that he had with the government. And I gotta put him at the top of the favorite list, not only just because of the fact he won twice and he's on the pole, but just watching his race car all around the racetrack over the past few practice days, it's really remarkable. I think he's got one of the best cars, along with Scott Dixon. Both those guys have great cars.

But, as you know, it's not just the fastest car that wins this race. And driving before, it's the case of what you have around you with the team, and he's got a great team, as many people do.

Danica struggled in the last couple of days with speed with a full tank. I'm not sure you would put her on the A-plus list as far as the group to win the event. She might be listed as an A.

But without a doubt I think those are the two names that people are going to be watching for on race day. I don't think they'll disappoint in one way or another. I think that we'll still be riveted to the TV because of what's going on on the track. 225 miles an hour, especially with those two players.

Q: Along the same lines, Danica and Helio are the easy stories. Are there some other stories you see emerging in this race that folks aren't looking at?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think every Indy 500 as it develops, there's always a multitude of stories. And I think one of the hardest jobs we have in the booth is trying to figure out what is going to be happening in the next five laps or 10 laps as the race develops.

There are a multitude of drivers and teams that will be trying to knock Ganassi and Penske off their perch, because those teams have been the strongest in qualifying and have the strongest history in the race. And now that this unification is one year into it, you will see other people come through.

I think Graham Rahal can do very well. I think Kanaan is very dueb^0x0011- is more than due for a win. There are other stories that will develop that will show. It's not just a Helio Castroneves and a Danica Patrick based series. Although they are the drivers that get the most attention, there are a lot of drivers there that have the opportunity to do well.

And this race is the most difficult race any of them will do in the year. And it's not just about a driver or a team; it's about somebody getting everything right that weekend and Sunday.

Q: Marty, read you once went toe to toe with Woody Hayes. Have you ever been toe to toe with A.J. Foyt? Does anyone in the IndyCar community remind you at all of some of those kind of characters?

MARTY REID: A.J. does, but A.J. and I got together early. And in fact it was because of my experience with Woody. What happened was I asked him (Hayes) a question for his reaction and I got it. And everybody's camera was rolling. So that's the short, abbreviated version for anybody who may not remember. It's been a while.

But after that, when I was starting to do races three years later for ESPN and the first time I saw A.J., I said: 'look, I know you've got a temper.' I said, 'I don't want to embarrass you and I don't want to embarrass myself.' And so we worked up this system. I would catch his eye. If it worked for us, we were at Miami at the Grand Prix, and the car was a real mess, a handful. And I caught his eye and he just shook his head no and I gave him a little time and he finally nodded and I got the camera man and we went in and did the interview and it was a lot better for both of us. So A.J. is the closest that comes to mind there. But I'm sure that down the road we can get a few people up on the tire.

And to go back to that other question, watch out for Mario Moraes. This kid has been impressive throughout the month. I think we could see something from him in the month too.

Q: Do you think IndyCar needs a few characters, though, like I was just talking about, like A.J.? Obviously he's still irascible, but he's getting long in the tooth. Do you need characters like that? Like last year, nobody's going to forget Danica Patrick's stalking down pit lane until she's intercepted heading for Ryan Briscoe's pit. Do you think IndyCar needs that kind of stuff?

MARTY REID: Absolutely. Look at Kyle Busch. You can wear the black hat as long as you can back it up on the racetrack. Kyle Busch backs it up on the racetrack. And, yes, IndyCar needs that, and to a degree we've had that. Danica and Dan Wheldon getting into the shoving match in Milwaukee, that was another example. How about when Sam Hornish, Jr. and Tony Kanaan get into it at Watkins Glen and we end up with his dad being pushed down and people rolling all over the place? For some reason that stuff hasn't gotten the kind of media attention that NASCAR gets. But IndyCar has had its moments and, yes, you do need those characters.

Q: Scott, Paul Tracy is back for the first time since 2002. And what his chances are, who knows, but you're one of those guys who from a technicality standpoint had an Indy 500 win taken away from you. Unless he wins this race, will this stick with him in his brain forever, no matter what he says about it? And how did you finally through the years learn to kind of compartmentalize that?

SCOTT GOODYEAR: First off, I don't think you can say you ever forget it. When I was driving, in '92 it was so close and deserved to finish 2nd because I raced to 2nd. In '95 I didn't agree with it then and don't agree with it now.

But, you know, there's always more races to come. You are focused on the next race or the next time you come to the Indy 500. And I think it probably feels more jolted to me now that I'm retired about getting disqualified in '95 than it did in '95 or subsequent years after because I was still racing. And obviously the situation in '97 with 2nd place there with the flag and the lights scenario, that wasn't correct also.

Even then I look at it and I go: I'm always close when I'm here. I know I'm going to win one of these one day. So that's your focus. That's what you're coming back and chasing. And then after, when you retire, you start to think about it afterwards, and it probably gets underneath your collar a little bit more in retirement than it does when you're driving.

So but to Paul's defense, I talked to him a fair amount a few weeks ago when he first arrived in town at our ABC studio shoot and then at the track, obviously. Never has he brought that up. I don't know if he's doing that purposely because of my situation, but, you know, I know that other people he's mentioned it to.

I think he seems to be focused and on the event. But that is my scenario with it. And maybe he might be a little more vocal than what he is now the day he's no longer driving in the car.

But on top of that I will tell you in my conversation with him, I asked him about full-time riding. He said: 'I don't know what it takes. I really don't know what it takes to come over here and to be accepted to run full time because I thought what I did at Edmonton, not being in a car, finishing fourth there, being competitive, I thought that would get me a full-time ride. But what did it get me? It got me nothing.' I think he's now more focused on today than what happened in 2002.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Jackie Stewart , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Keith Jackson , Mario Moraes , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick , Kyle Busch , Sam Hornis