The sights and sounds of the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series telecasts on ABC and ESPN will be different this year as the broadcasters attempt to create a different camaraderie in the booth and on pit road. For all telecasts there will be a...
The sights and sounds of the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series telecasts on ABC and ESPN will be different this year as the broadcasters attempt to create a different camaraderie in the booth and on pit road.
For all telecasts there will be a three-person booth atop the 17 race tracks the League will visit over the coming months. Sophomore Todd Harris has been moved from pit road to take over the play-by-play duties formerly handled by veteran broadcaster Paul Page; Harris will be joined by fourth year analyst Scott Goodyear and by 2003 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Gil de Ferran, who hung up his helmet at the close of that season.
On pit road, reporter Jamie Little continues for a second season and has Dr. Jerry Punch working with her for both ABC/ESPN broadcasts. This duo gets augmented during ABC telecasts by Jack Arute, who has spent race time on pit road and in the broadcast booth over the past few years. When ESPN is broadcasting an Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event, Vince Welch takes over the third pit reporter's job.
With three road/street course races on the docket for 2005 the breadth of broadcasting grows for all involved. While it's easy to see the action in front of them at the 14 oval contests the challenge is far greater for broadcasters when they've got to cover events beyond their purview.
Todd Harris, who anchors all IRL broadcasts and is responsible for the play-by-play, believes he's up to the challenge despite "only having one year under my belt. It'll be great to have Gil and Scott up there with me and we've got a truly fantastic schedule for this year," Harris proclaimed.
His compatriots in the booth have hands-on racing experience while Harris, who joined ABC in 1999 doing college football sideline reports, has worked a variety of jobs within the broadcast arena. In fact, in addition to his racing responsibilities, Harris also serves as the host of ESPN's World's Strongest Man shows.
"We each bring something to the table," Harris reveals, "and our rehearsals show a good flow and chemistry forming between the three of us already." He admits he'll miss working in the pits because his experience was so exciting last season. "The passion you feel in the pits is terrific; it's the most exciting thing I've ever done."
He'll be apart from the noise, dirt and minute-by-minute action Harris relished during his first year of IndyCar Series racing, but Todd thinks it'll be plenty interesting to be in the booth, particularly with de Ferran and Goodyear on hand to liven the action.
"I've got a lot to learn," states de Ferran, the CART 2000-2001 champion who came to the League fulltime in 2002. "It's one thing to know what goes on while cars are racing on the track but it's another to talk about it. I think I'm surrounded by great teachers, including Scott Goodyear."
Goodyear, the Canadian racing veteran and near-winner at Indy has three years of insight about what occurs in the broadcast booth, scenarios the watching fans - and even teams - aren't aware about.
"One of the most difficult things about working in the booth is the fact that, as we talk, there's someone else talking to us in the ear set. I don't think people realize how very, very difficult it is to speak over the air with someone talking in your ear. For that reason alone, I still feel like a rookie," Goodyear notes.
Jamie Little, who began her broadcast racing career doing motocross and supercross events had "the time of my life" in her first season of IndyCar Series telecasting from the pits. "You have to be ready for anything and I'm so glad to be back. I had to build rapport with team members and that takes a lot of work.
"I'd make the rounds and let people know that I have the same passion for racing that they do. It took a while to gain their trust," Little says, "and that's how I can get information to make a better show." Harris agrees: "The essence of racing is what we're trying to project and to convey that tension is so beneficial for the viewer."
De Ferran realizes he'll have a fairly easy time "figuring out what's up on the race track, but the struggle often is trying to put the picture of what's really happening out to the public. I'm sure we'll make some mistakes our first times together but I'm also sure we'll get better as the year goes on."
Needing to rely on each other Goodyear emphasizes, "There are so many good people on our team, but we always need some guidance [where we are] and, with Gil and myself, neither of us has background in television so we do need constructive criticism to be good at our jobs."
The priority for this team is, of course to promote the racing and to show the excitement of the races without pandering to the public. "We need to convey the excitement, the dangers and the personalities of the drivers who compete."
To that end, the League and its broadcast partners are finding regular viewing times for "The Fast Life", a vignette begun by Little last season that was popular with viewers when they could find it. "We'll be doing eight half-hour shows on the drivers and their personalities this year, starting at Indy," Little explained.
"I had so much fun reporting about the people and we got great response for those shows, but people never knew when to find them." ABC/ESPN plan to promote "The Fast Life" and give it a regular broadcast time so that the League's personalities can shine outside of their racing cars.
While everyone responsible for broadcasting Indy Racing League IndyCar Series races has been preparing for the season to start - just like the teams and drivers they're reporting about - they're all just waiting for next weekend's season debut on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.
When the green flags fly to start the Toyota Indy 300 on March 6th, the fierce competition to get the true story to viewers begins for the trio in the broadcast booth and their three reporters running the length of pit road rally to get the right information in hand and on the air. Each and every one of them can't wait to begin.