Cheever and Goodyear in 2001, then teammates. Photo: Getty Images

Honor, privilege to call 100th Indy 500 not lost on Goodyear, Cheever

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The rare opportunity to call the television broadcast of the 100th Indianapolis 500 is not something lost on Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr., who share the ABC broadcast booth with Allen Bestwick for their Verizon IndyCar Series telecasts.

Though fans may not see it and may critique their style and dynamic, both Goodyear and Cheever – two past drivers – have truly committed themselves from both preparation and presentation standpoints.

Goodyear celebrates his 15th consecutive call of the ‘500 this year, having been on air every year since 2002. His last start as a driver came in 2001, when Sarah Fisher and he collided on the first lap, which left Goodyear with a back injury.

The chance to call the ‘500 in 2002 came as a surprise then – Goodyear had had his first race call six years earlier under unusual circumstances at the 1996 U.S. 500 in Michigan – and the Carmel, Ind.-based Canadian admitted he’s surprised he’s been able to carry on the call this long.

“When I started this in 2002, after I got crashed out in 2001 at Indy and broke my back for the second time, they came to me and said ‘Why don’t you become an (TV) analyst?’” Goodyear told NBC Sports.

“I let it go for a few months and then they came back to me in November and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll try it for a year.’

“The kids were growing up and I’d been away from them so much (while racing). I wanted to slow down a little bit and my wife said, ‘You might enjoy it,’ so I signed for one year. And I really didn’t think it would be going on as long as it is.”

Cheever’s entry into the broadcast booth at Indy came six years later, in 2008, 10 years after his 1998 Indy race win. His last ‘500 start came in 2006, and this is his ninth ‘500 call.

He described his preparation process for the race.

“It’s an honor and great privilege to call the 100th,” Cheever told NBC Sports. “I have looked at the first race and from there it’s about studying whatever film I can see, whatever photographs I can look at, and whatever books I can read.

“I’ve dived into the first one, the Ray Harroun race, to look at it both from a driver and from the fans’ perspective, and gone from there.”

Being part of an Indy 500 TV broadcast is a lot like being behind the wheel, Goodyear said.

“You’re not driving a race car, but in a way a lot of it is wrapped around like driving a race car,” Goodyear explained. “In a race car, it’s going, going, going and you’re multitasking. When the light goes yellow, you’re talking to your pit lane and have a conversation about what you’re going to do when it goes back to green.

“In television, when it goes on-air live, you’re going, going, going and multi-tasking because you’re watching everything that’s going on, and then when it goes yellow and you go to a commercial, you’re talking with the truck, not the pit box, and you’re coming up with what’s coming up in the future.”

Goodyear’s learned quite a lot about TV in the process.

“For me, it was an adrenaline rush in a sense, and I’ve learned a lot about television as I’ve gone through and how to get to our demographics and our fans,” he said.

“The thing is, I just didn’t think I’d be doing it as long as I am. It’s gone by quickly and on the other side, I now have more respect for the drivers and what I did because I didn’t realize it when I was doing it.

“You’re so consumed by it and you think it’s natural and that a lot of people can do it, and then the world’s going slow for you at Indy driving over 230 mph.

“I now have more respect being in the booth, watching what’s going on, how close the wheels are on oval races and how hard it is to win. So I have much more of a respect for our sport now in television than I probably had when I was driving.”

For Goodyear, who famously came up short three different ‘500s (1992, 1995 and 1997), having the opportunity to understand what race morning is like from another perspective is what makes the race for him.

“The overall event makes the race for me, in a sense. I didn’t know all the spectacle and pageantry that went on with the 500,” he admitted.

“The first year I did it, I was working it with Paul Page. He said to come early and see everything’s going on. … So I came early and I see from 6 o’clock (a.m.) onwards, everything starts to fill in, the people start to fill in, it’s like a time image. I said, ‘Hey look at this!’ and he let me go on for an hour. He said, ‘I told you’, and it was like I get it.

“Jim Nabors was there singing ‘Back Home Again In Indiana’, there was the National Anthem and the flyover – if you didn’t get goosebumps and something rushing through your body, you don’t have a pulse. To me, this was a much bigger event than I realized when I was driving it. It’s really pretty cool.”

Cheever, the 1998 winner, reflected on the fact the commentators have to understand the importance of the race because they’re a huge part in living and telling history.

“I think the Indianapolis 500 is one of the great American institutions,” he said.

“There’s not many events that have even half the longevity. We just celebrated the 50th Super Bowl. It’s something the whole world knows as very American.

“It’s a document left long after I’m gone.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.