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ABC team talks about IndyCar broadcasts

Bestwick to Remain, Become Lead Voice for Indy 500
Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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An interview with:

ANDY HALL
ALLEN BESTWICK

THE MODERATOR:  Next up we have Andy Hall from ESPN to make a special announcement. 

ANDY HALL:  Good morning, everybody.  Thanks for being here today.  The biggest thing going on with ABC and the IndyCar Series this year is this is the 50th year that ABC will televise the Indianapolis 500.  It started in 1965.  That's something we're really looking forward to during the month of May.

We have some things in the works that we'll be breaking out as time goes along.  That's an anniversary we plan to celebrate and hope all of you will enjoy what we bring out for that. 

Of course, this year we're doing five races.  We'll be doing the season opener at St. Petersburg, which we're excited to be back at that event.  We haven't been there for a couple years.  That event when people have been without racing all winter, they tend to tune in and watch it. 

We'll do both parts of the Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle.  We're excited to have the new Indianapolis road course as part of our schedule.  Of course, the 50th Indy.  We're also back doing Indianapolis 500 time trials, which we haven't done for a few years either.  That's another good thing looking forward to for this year. 

Our crew to do the races will be pretty much the same as it's been for the last few years.  Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever will be our analysts for all the races in the booth.  Our pit reporters will be Jamie little, Vince Welch and Rick DeBruhl for the majority of the races.  Dr. Jerry Punch will join us at Indianapolis as a fourth pit reporter and Doc Punch will also work one of the other races. 

The crew will be the same with one exception, of course.  It's the worst-kept secret in racing, but Allen Bestwick is going to become the new anchor for ABC's Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series coverage. 

Allen, welcome.  I know you and I have talked about going up watching the Indianapolis 500.  Maybe you can talk about that a little bit. 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I didn't get into the business to be a race announcer.  I wanted to be a broadcaster my whole life.  One of the inspirations was watching that Sunday night broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 and watching Jim McKay, one of my heroes. 

To have the opportunity to sit in that seat on this occasion, ABC's 50th anniversary of televising this race, is a little hard to fathom in some ways for a kid from Rhode Island. 

It's really exciting.  The opportunity that was presented to me to stay with ESPN and some of the things I'm being given the opportunity to do, they're bucket list things for me. 

I was very, very flattered and really, really happy to be part of this.  It's a big change, but it's an exciting change and a great time for change.  I'm really looking forward to this. 

Especially, like I said, the Indianapolis 500, when I was a kid, I got this book from the book club at school.  It was called 30 Days in May.  I don't remember who wrote it.  Story of the 1970 Indianapolis 500.  I dog-eared that book.  I swear I read it 18 times. 

I have been fascinated with this race and this place ever since.  Most of my career has found me in Charlotte, North Carolina, on this weekend.  But I can't wait to be part of this and get started. 

ANDY HALL:  Allen is going to remain with ESPN after our NASCAR contract ends in 2014.  Some of the things he'll be doing for us in 2015 will be college football.  He'll be part of the new SEC Network which launches in 2015.  He'll also be doing golf and tennis for ESPN on the interactive television broadcasts that we do from like the British Open and the US Open tennis and some of those events.  So he'll be busy in addition to doing the IndyCar events. 

This year he'll still do NASCAR all year with ESPN as well as the IndyCar Series schedule.  One of the questions may be what's going to happen on Charlotte weekend. 

Dave Burns, part of our NASCAR team for a long time, he's going to do the play-by-play on the races that Allen misses, which there's going to be a couple he misses while doing IndyCar.  So that's the plan for that. 

If anybody has any questions, we'll be happy to take some now. 

Q. Talking to you the other day at Daytona you talked a lot about the history not only of the Indianapolis 500, but ABC being at the Indianapolis 500.  What does that mean to be part of that history and how do you see taking that history into the future? 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I grew up a fan of traditional broadcasting, if you will.  I'm 52 years old.  I'm a child of that era.  The alphabet networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, were which you aspired to. 

Like I said before, to have a chance to sit in that seat at that race where one of my idols and heroes first helped get me interested in this business in the first place, it's almost hard to comprehend. 

I'm just a kid from a little town in Rhode Island, small town, whose daddy raced Studebakers at a quarter and a half mile racetrack.  It's amazing. 

I'm very blessed.  I'm very lucky. 

What does it mean to me?  It means responsibility.  It means getting it right.  But that's no different than any other broadcast I've ever done in this business.  You owe it to the competitors, to the fans, to yourself to get it right, and have fun while you're doing it. 

People can't have fun watching it if you're not having fun doing it.  I'll have a blast doing it. 

Q. Also taking this series and trying to position it for the future. 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  You know, this series has some great racing.  I'm a race fan, so I watch everything, doesn't matter what it is.  This series has some great racing, and it's fun. 

I think there are a couple of building blocks that we can work on.  They're in the works.  I'll let the people that make those decisions make those decisions.  But I have been offered the opportunity to offer my ideas, which I have.  I think you'll see some of them come into play. 

It's good racing.  First object of any racing telecast:  document the race and document it properly.  The hardest thing about auto racing and broadcasting, if you're covering a football game and you have a camera on the ball, you got 90% of the story covered, right?  The rest of it is filling in around the edges. 

Where is the ball in the race?  Is it the lead, fifth place, a strategy call?  Where is the ball?  Making those decisions every second of every lap of the race, Where is the ball?  How do you best describe and make what the ball is understandable?  That's how you take it forward. 

Continue to use technology, make sure you always have your eye on the ball.  Does that make sense? 

Q. Allen, I would say a lot of people became most familiar with you on MRN broadcasts of NASCAR.  When you look back, did you think you would become pigeonholed in racing as far as broadcasting?  Does this feel like an evolution?  Did you feel you would be doing NASCAR forever? 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  The best way I can answer that is I never planned any of this to start with, so why start thinking about it now? 

I didn't get into the business to be a race announcer.  I was doing other things and a job opportunity opened up.  Because my dad raced when I was a kid, I knew something about the sport, when a lot of people don't necessarily grow up with it.  That opened up the opportunity to go to work for MRN. 

Certainly through this whole time I've been broadcasting NASCAR, it's dominated my life and my career.  There's not much room to do anything else.  When you're on the season in NASCAR, there's not much room to do anything else.  So the fact I haven't been doing anything else is more a product of time than anything. 

If you remember back in the first NBC go-around when we only did half the season, I was off doing Arena Football, track and field, whatever else they sent me to do. 

It's good to be known for doing something and doing something you enjoy.  I enjoy racing. 

Was I afraid of being pigeonholed?  No, it's a good place to be.  Am I excited about the opportunity to do other things?  Absolutely.  I'm a sportsfans.  I love all sports.  My Red Sox are in spring training down the road.  Hockey season is going on.  A chance to do Grand Slam tennis and the British Open.  Okay, put me in, coach. 

I wasn't afraid of it.  It's been a great thing, a great ride. 

There will be some emotions at the end of this season, no question about it.  I've got a lot of friends.  Had a lot of great times in NASCAR, so there will be some emotion.  But I'm excited about where I'm going to. 

Q. Talk about the importance of having a nationally recognized voice doing not only the Indianapolis 500, but also the IndyCar Series in terms of that adding credibility to the telecast and to the sport? 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  Am I a nationally recognized voice?  I wouldn't be so bold as to speak to something like that. 

But I'm confident in my reputation and how the fans view my work.  I'll bring that same work ethic to this and hope that it resonates in the same way. 

ANDY HALL:  I can say that when the news about this broke a month and a half or so ago, I looked at a lot of reaction on message boards, Twitter, different places like that.  Most of what I saw were very positive.  A couple of people said, Oh, he's a NASCAR guy.  A couple people were like, Yeah, but he's a professional, a very good sports announcer. 

That's what I hope will resonate among race fans and the viewers who support our telecast.  I think it will.  I mean, obviously we have a ton of confidence in what Allen brings to the table, not only for racing, but for the other sports he's going to be doing. 

Q. IndyCar fans are known for being finicky about their announcers.  What would you say to those fans who look to you as being a NASCAR guy? 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I'd say, first of all, I'm a racing guy.  Long before I was a NASCAR guy, I had a '53 Studebaker late model racecar in my garage that my dad raced when I was 6 to 10 years old.  That had nothing to do with NASCAR.  That was at a local short track. 

I did the American LeMans Series for NBC.  Didn't have a problem with people accepting me doing that. 

As far as going forward on the IndyCar Series, I'll let my work stand for it.  I've already been doing a lot of homework.  I spent a day at Penske Racing at the IndyCar shop.  Going through cars top to bottom, pit stop practice, sitting down with race engineers, team managers.  Tim Cindric was fabulous with his time. 

I was just integrating myself into terminology, technology and who the people are.  Lack of homework won't be a problem.  So I'll just let the work stand for itself and hope that people will judge me on the work. 

Q. Allen, having followed all forms of racing, including IndyCar, having covered NASCAR most recently, Juan Pablo Montoya in particular, what is your prediction on how he will transition back into IndyCar?

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I think Juan is understanding there's some adjustment that's going to be necessary.  The cars have changed a lot since he drove those cars last. 

But I don't see any reason why he won't succeed.  He's obviously very, very good at anything he's driven.  There's a determination there that I don't see why he won't succeed. 

Will he win this year?  I think he will, yeah. 

ANDY HALL:  Thank you, everybody.  We'll see everybody in St. Petersburg. 

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