Highlights from NBSN’s NASCAR/IndyCar Event

RACING IN HIGH HEELS: NBC SPORTS ALERT

STAMFORD, Conn. – July 4, 2020 – NBC Sports began its coverage today of the historic NASCAR/INDYCAR crossover weekend from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Scott Dixon won the INDYCAR GMR Grand Prix and Chase Briscoe won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 in back-to-back races on the IMS road course, both on NBC.

Mike Tirico kicked off coverage at Noon ET on NBC at the top of the grid on pit road, and anchored coverage throughout the day from the sixth floor of the iconic Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway alongside NASCAR Hall of Fame member and two-time Brickyard 400-winner Dale Jarrett.

Coverage from Indianapolis between the INDYCAR and NASCAR Xfinity races included interviews by Tirico and Jarrett with NBC Sports’ Dale Earnhardt Jr., Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles, and NASCAR President Steve Phelps.

NBC Sports’ lead INDYCAR broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Townsend Bell(analyst), and Paul Tracy (analyst) called the GMR Grand Prix, while Marty Snider and Dave Burns provided reports from the pits.

NBC Sports’ lead NASCAR race announcer Rick Allen, Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte, 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton, and two-time Daytona 500 Champion and recent NASCAR Hall of Fame selection Dale Earnhardt Jr. called the NASCAR Xfinity race from the broadcast booth at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Snider and Kelli Stavastprovided reports from the pits in Indianapolis.

Following are notes and quotes from today’s coverage on NBC:

COUNTDOWN TO GREEN

NASCAR President Steve Phelps on NASCAR’s rallying around Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway: “I was moved literally to tears. It was an incredible display of what NASCAR is all about. NASCAR is about community, NASCAR is about family. Those drivers, crews, officials supporting, everyone walking down pit road pushing his (Bubba Wallace‘s) car. That scene was something that I was incredibly proud to work at NASCAR at that moment and I have been every day since. It’s been an amazing few weeks. Bubba has showed incredible courage, grace and class in how he’s approached it. There’s no anger in it at all. It’s about listening, understanding and really for us it’s about welcoming more people to the racetrack and to our sport. That’s really the message we want out there.”

Dale Jarrett: “I had to think back to if there was something in this sport that ever moved me that way that did. And I really couldn’t come up with something that was that meaningful and how much it meant to me to be a part of this sport…I’ve been so proud watching the drivers, in particular, take control of this. Bubba Wallace is not only a great driver, but he’s one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around…it’s nice to see the other drivers rally around him and show their support and that we as a sport are ready to move in a very positive direction.”

Phelps on how NASCAR has adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic: “If you look back pre-COVID when we were in Phoenix and then we shut down for 10 weeks, I think if you asked anyone ‘hey, you can do a one-day show. No practice and no qualifying.’ Most people in the industry would say ‘that just cannot happen.’ We’ve shown that it can, so when things get back to normal, we will do a post mortem of what went on, what things we can incorporate into the 2021 season that we learned in the 2020 season.”

Phelps on NASCAR’s health and safety protocols currently in place: “I think the protocols have worked really, really well for us. Obviously, it’s unfortunate that Jimmie (Johnson) is going to be out of the car this weekend. Hopefully (following) two negative tests, he can get back in the car at Kentucky (Motor Speedway). I think the protocols have worked really well. It’s not perfect, but if you look at the procedures and policies we have in place really to protect the drivers, crews, our own officials and anyone that is working at the racetrack, the number of positive tests we’ve had have been so few and far between, we’re encouraged. We think the protocols are working as we had expected they would. Hopefully Jimmie will be back soon and we won’t have any other drivers test positive.”

INDYCAR GMR GRAND PRIX

Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles on new INDYCAR and IMS Race for Equality & Change initiative: “We believe this is a time where it’s possible to have systemic and fundamental change and we want INDYCAR and IMS to be a part of that change and lead that change. This isn’t a program that has a beginning and an end, this is how we see ourselves in the future. We want to work on involving people of color in our workforce, team owners, drivers, crew members – throughout the entirety of the people engaged in this sport and across from teams to our organizations and to our promoters. We want to do that in a lot of ways and one of them is to invest in minority communities and grassroots programs to help us reach out to people who might not normally be thinking about motorsports.”

Miles on potential of fans at the re-scheduled Indianapolis 500 on August 23 on NBC: “We’ve been working on that since March. We work very closely with all the public health authorities in the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, other medical and public health folks giving us advice and reviewing our plans – they keep being evolving and being fine-tuned. We announced a week ago we won’t have more than a 50% capacity for attendance here – it could be less than that. We’ve already said we will be giving masks and disinfectant. A little secret – we will take everybody’s temperature before they come in and much more to keep people safe.”

Race-winner Scott Dixon to Snider atop the new winner’s circle at IMS: “It’s so good to be back racing here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We’ve had so many runner-ups here on the road course. We got lucky with that caution, but as soon as we got the balance, we just checked out.”

Dixon on the victory: “It was one of those days, what we picked, just worked. When you get seasons like that, for us to start the season off with two wins…man, we have to keep this rolling.”

Bell on Dixon, who won by nearly 20 seconds today and who won at Texas last month: “Utter dominance in two races to start the season.”

Diffey on Dixon: “He is the picture of consistency…there is so much respect for Scott Dixon in this NTT INDYCAR Series for what he has done year-in and year-out.”

Bell on second-place finisher Graham Rahal: “Terrific drive for Graham Rahal. That yellow flag really took away what was a likely win for Rahal…I can argue that Graham Rahal had the drive of the day. That two-stop strategy was on-course for a victory until the yellow…I think that’s one of his best drives ever.”

Tracy on third-place finisher Simon Pagenaud: “I’ve got to give the drive of the day to Simon Pagenaud. He started the race all the way down in 20th and worked his way all the way through the field to challenge Graham Rahal.”

Diffey on Scott Dixon on Lap 53: “Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Scott Dixon was also part of the Rolex 24 at Daytona overall race-winning team. 2020 could be one of Scott Dixon’s best racing years on record.”

Bell on issues for Alexander Rossi on Lap 42: “We’re only a race-and-a-half into this season and Alexander Rossi has had 5-6 major issues…what a frustrating start to this season. Two races in a row, big drama and none of it his fault.”

Tracy on team’s strategies following caution on Lap 36: “This is really going to throw a monkey wrench into things.”

Bell on Rahal’s two-stop strategy on Lap 26: “Looking like a great day for Graham Rahal – not only the pace, but he’s done 26 laps along with three pace laps to start this race to put himself in contention with this two-stop strategy. I didn’t think anybody could go this far…I think he can make it.”

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES PENNZOIL 150

Earnhardt Jr. on new tradition of NASCAR competing in Indianapolis on July 4th weekend instead of at Daytona International Speedway: “If they’re going to make a change and start a new tradition, I couldn’t think of a better place than Indy. I don’t know that we would be at Daytona if it weren’t for Indy. Indy is where it all started for motorsports in America. It’s fitting for us to be able to celebrate this amazing holiday at such an incredible race track with so much history.”

Letarte on the crossover weekend: “As a motorsports fan, it can’t (get better than this). As a sports fan, I’m not sure it can. When you think about national holidays, the only thing that matches better than a barbecue, is a great sporting event and that’s what Indianapolis Motor Speedway has provided.”

Allen on Chase Briscoe: “He calls this his home track, the Indiana boy. Has suffered through highs and lows this season…The first-ever running of the Xfinity Series on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indiana boy is going to win it.”

Letarte on Briscoe: “He loved Tony Stewart‘s win, now he’s won with Tony’s crew chief Greg Zipadelli and they’re going to climb the fence.”

Race-winner Briscoe to Snider: “My hero in racing was Tony Stewart and to race for him, watch him win the Brickyard, that (climbing the fence) was always his signature thing, so I just wanted to do it…growing up, coming here all the time, it’s unbelievable to think I just won here…tough to put it into words.”

Earnhardt Jr. on the restart with 8 laps to go: “The gloves are off. Going into turn one on this restart, everyone has been pretty nice most of the day. That’s coming to an end right now.”

Letarte on A.J. Allmendinger attempting to pit before the first caution at the end of Stage 1, but arriving too late and losing four spots: “It’s just unfortunate timing for A.J…I like the gamble, but the gamble is going to hurt him.”

***

Today’s motorsports coverage continues from Daytona International Speedway for the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at Daytona at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The NASCAR Cup Series takes center stage from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, as NBC Sports kicks off its 2020 NASCAR Cup Series coverage with the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records. Pre-race coverage will begin with Countdown to Green at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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