03/21/11 After nearly four decades in motorsports, Wally Dallenbach Jr. is adept at adjusting to change. This one is particularly welcome.
Dallenbach, the son of a longtime open-wheel racer and CART chief steward, is among the additions to VERSUS' extensive broadcast lineup of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights for 2011. He'll join Bob Jenkins and Jon Beekhuis in the booth.
"When NBC did not renew the NASCAR deal four years ago, I remember driving to Talladega from the Atlanta airport with (then-NBC Sports coordinating producer) Sam Flood and I remember the conversation like it was yesterday," Dallenbach says. "I looked over at Sam and said, 'Sam, it's time to go after IndyCar. I know they just signed a contract with other networks but it's something we could really have fun doing.'
"It's amazing how it came around and now we're doing it because it's something I've wanted to do for a long time."
VERSUS, which will telecast 12 qualifying sessions and race events beginning with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 9-10, has expanded its broadcast window from three hours to five continuous hours to include live broadcasts of eight Firestone Indy Lights races. Additionally, it has added "Inside the IZOD IndyCar Series" — a weekly studio show (4-5 p.m. ET debuting May 3), which will be re-aired during the week.
IZOD IndyCar Series race encores will air Mondays, while the network will provide more than 17 hours of qualifications coverage leading up to the Indianapolis 500 on May 29. VERSUS will kick off the season with a one-hour special, "Crashes and Conflicts," at 2 p.m. (ET) April 3.
In total, the network will air more than 140 hours of coverage throughout the season, all in HD.
Mike Wells, a multi-Emmy Award winner for NBC's and Tuner Sports' coverage of NASCAR, is VERSUS' new director for all its IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. Veteran motorsports reporter Marty Snider joins Lindy Thackston (who returns for her third season) and Kevin Lee (pit reporter for VERSUS' Firestone Indy Lights coverage and an IMS Radio Network reporter since 2004) as pit reporters. Robbie Floyd also returns for select races. SPEED correspondent Robin Miller will join the network's pre-race show and will be an in-race reporter for select telecasts.
Flood, who last June was named executive producer of NBC Sports, said the on-air group is an experienced group of storytellers, "which we think will enhance the overall broadcast." VERSUS, part of the NBC Sports Group, serves more than 75 million homes.
"I think the most important thing is that the drivers are the stars and our job is to make sure people know who these stars are and build them bigger and better than before so that there's a rooting interest in every race and people have their favorites," Flood says. "We want to make sure they know as much as possible about these guys and ladies so they have a reason to root. We truly believe in the big-event strategy at NBC and VERSUS, where you'll take an event and make it bigger than it was before and through that growth the sport grows.
"Last year was a really well-done show and we just think with some refinements and some extra elements added in it will take it to another level. The timing couldn't be better. Everything's coming together. Everyone knows it's fast, fun and know there are star drivers who are part of this series that will help it grow on TV and at the racetrack."
Dallenbach, a former CART, sports car and NASCAR driver who has covered motorsports for NBC Sports and Turner Sports since 2001, sees INDYCAR continuing its momentum swing of the past few years.
"My family has been around Indy car racing for a long, long time," he says. "That's where I wanted to go as a driver, but opportunities took me elsewhere. I feel like I've always been a part of Indy car racing because my mom and dad have been there for so long and I follow it. I'm 100 percent convinced that IndyCar is on the upswing. It's our job to show how exciting this racing is, and we have to get the personalities out of these drivers because they're the ones who are going to sell themselves and sell the sport.
"Although I haven't professionally been driving a race car for some time, I do stay current and still drive (this week he's testing a Lola at Homestead-Miami Speedway) so I try to bring a perspective from the driver. I've worked with Jon before and have known Jon and Bob Jenkins for years. There's no doubt that I like having fun and I'm definitely loose, and I hope that rubs off on everybody. We want to be able to tell stories and have fun and make it seem like we're just three guys sitting on a couch, eating a pizza and calling the race."
03/21/11 The IndyCar Series will get more than 140 hours of coverage this season through extended programming on Versus.
The cable network said Monday it will air 12 races live during the season, and extend the live television window from three to five hours. Versus will also present a weekly one-hour studio show that will debut May 3.
The IndyCar season begins Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla. The opener will be broadcast by ABC.