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

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

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”