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NBC Geared Up for Unique, Historic Weekend of Racing Telecasts

INDYCAR television partner NBC will use a unique “crossover” format for this weekend’s INDYCAR/NASCAR tripleheader at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the first time the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series have competed at the same racing venue on the same weekend.

The GMR Grand Prix begins at noon (ET) Saturday followed by the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard at 3 p.m. ET. Both races on the IMS road course will be telecast on NBC.

On Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series will compete on the historic 2.5-mile oval in the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records at 4 p.m. ET, also live on NBC.

To make this all happen with different telecast crews, it will require a very unique concept, according to NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood.

The INDYCAR telecast team will produce the GMR Grand Prix from a production truck located in the infield at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After that race ends, the camera signals will be switched to a television truck located in Concord, North Carolina, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That truck will produce the Xfinity race Saturday and the Cup race Sunday.

The INDYCAR production truck at IMS will be responsible for the “bridge show” that will be televised between the two races and hosted by Mike Tirico.

“It’s this unique time, because of social distancing and all the rules and regulations, to be able to produce these two races in the same venue and the same time frame, essentially,” Flood said. “We’ve gone to this new model, and we’re excited about it.

“We are ‘fingers crossed,’ but our technical team is so outstanding that they are ready for all the challenges that are there.”

Additionally, NBCSN will also televise the IMSA race at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night, with that race being fed back to a different control room in Charlotte.

“We’ve got three control rooms, three races, and only one person can claim they’re working one race in the booth and one race in the car,” Flood said. “That is Townsend Bell, who is going to be calling the race in Indy and then jumping on a plane and flying down to Daytona to race in the IMSA race. Hats off to Townsend for pulling that double. The rest of the group is just going to have to use their voices and not their driving skills.”

While each series has its own broadcast crews and talent lineup, this weekend will feature plenty of crossover topics for each crew to discuss throughout the various broadcasts.

“We’re excited to cross over this group, and there will be conversations between the two groups as there were at the Indy 500 where Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his first experience as an INDYCAR analyst,” Flood said. “He was a man about town as he got to know the stream where he pulled out some old bricks and where he got to see the Snake Pit and where he got to see an incredible Indy 500 last year.

“Now he’s going to be able to tell more stories about the motorsports world.”

Former INDYCAR driver and current NBC Sports INDYCAR analyst Bell described the full weekend of racing involving four different series, including three at IMS, as a “motorsports rager.”

“Let’s not forget it is the Fourth of July and Roger Penske now owns the greatest spectacle in terms of a racetrack and a race, and it just seems like everything is coming together in spectacular fashion,” Bell said. “I find it hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was sitting at home commentating on virtual races for NBC as our adaptive plan, which went very well, and now all of a sudden we’re going to go into this weekend.

“I’m going to borrow a term from my colleagues here and call it a “motorsports rager,” and I think it’s going to be a little overwhelming for everybody but so much fun to do it. As Sam pointed out earlier, it didn’t seem fair that I would just go in and commentate, so I am pulling off something I’ve never tried before, which is commentating and racing on the same day in two different locations. I’m not sure if anybody has ever done that type of double, but we’re going to give it our best shot, and with INDYCAR happening Saturday at noon on big NBC and then the IMSA race on NBC Sports Network that evening down in Daytona, that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Former NASCAR star Earnhardt got his first chance to attend the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in 2019 as part of NBC’s broadcast crew. He hopes to bring some of the same enthusiasm to this week’s historic tripleheader at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the two top forms of motorsports in America today here in the same venue, not only for the fans but for the people in the industry,” Earnhardt said. “There is so much respect, going back and forth from open wheel to stock car over the decades. There has been a lot of great circumstances and opportunities where drivers have drove — INDYCAR drivers have raced in stock cars with success and stock car racers have ran at Indy in INDYCARs with success, as well.

“Those opportunities and conversations about what might happen in the future still continue today. We’ll hear about that with Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson, who is going to be testing in INDYCAR next week, and I think that this opportunity to have the two series share the same venue can really ignite and be a catalyst to seeing the drivers’ cross discipline.”

This year’s crossover was borne out of necessity after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down professional sports earlier this year. Flood would like to see this tripleheader concept used in the future when fans are allowed to return to racing venues and experience both forms of racing at the same track.

“I have a strong suspicion this will be the start of a beautiful relationship,” Flood said. “I can see more of this going forward. Clearly, we need spectators at the venue to fulfill the true mission here, to have people together celebrating the two forms of racing.

“This is the future. I’m glad Roger Penske and (NASCAR President) Steve Phelps took advantage of this unique moment in time. This is a reality sooner than it would have happened otherwise.”

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