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Diffey, Allmendinger, Fish lead NBC Sports’ 2019 IMSA broadcast team

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NBC Sports’ exclusive coverage begins on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019 with the 57th running of iconic Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona on NBCSN

STAMFORD, Conn. – When the 50th anniversary of the International Motorsports Association (IMSA) season begins on Saturday, Jan. 26, NBC Sports will utilize a commentator team led by play-by-play voice Leigh Diffey, former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver A.J. Allmendinger (analyst) and former IMSA GT driver and analystCalvin Fish.

Diffey, Allmendinger, and Fish will make their IMSA broadcast debut for NBC Sports from the 57th running of the iconic Rolex 24 at Daytona, as a world-class field of drivers take to the Daytona International Speedway as part of more than 100 hours of IMSA programming set to air across NBC Sports’ platforms in 2019.

Additional details regarding analysts and pit crew reporters will be announced at a later date.

“Leigh has a unique ability to communicate all of the stories and battles taking place throughout a race,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President of Production, NBC Sports. “A.J. will bring a fresh perspective from the driver’s seat to the booth, while Calvin’s familiarity with IMSA both as a racer and analyst will combine for an informed and entertaining listen.”

Since joining NBC Sports in 2013, Diffey has served as the lead play-by-play voice for the network’s IndyCar and Formula One coverage. Prior to joining NBC Sports, Diffey called both the GRAND-Am Rolex SportsCar Series and American Le Mans Series from 2003-12.

Fish previously served as an analyst on FOX Sports’ IMSA coverage, and was IMSA’s GTO class winner at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1990.

Allmendinger joined NBC Sports after competing in NASCAR for 13 seasons, most recently driving JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 Chevy in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In 2012, Allmendinger was part of the overall-winning team in the Rolex 24 at Dayton

As part of a six-year partnership announced in April, NBC Sports will present 12 races across NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app throughout 2019. Race highlights include the 12 Hours of Sebring from Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., on March 16; the Grand Prix of Long Beach from the Long Beach Street Circuit on April 13; and the penultimate race of the season from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on Sept. 15.

Announcer bios:

LEIGH DIFFEY: Diffey joined NBC Sports Group in 2013 as the play-by-play voice for Formula One and is currently NBC Sports’ lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator. Diffey has also handled play-by-play duties for the PENN Relays track and field meet, Olympic skeleton, luge and bobsled at PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014, and rowing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Twitter@leighdiffey

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Allmendinger joined NBC Sports in December 2018 after competing in NASCAR for 13 seasons, most recently driving JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 Chevy in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He garnered his first career Cup Series win in 2014, and made his first playoff appearance that same year. Allmendinger also drove part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he earned two victories (both in 2013). In 2012, Allmendinger was part of the overall-winning team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2006, he earned five wins and placed third overall in the Champ Car World Series. Twitter@AJDinger

CALVIN FISH: Fish, a former Indy Lights and IMSA GT driver, among other series, joins NBC Sports after serving as a motorsports analyst for FOX Sports. Fish was a frequent member of FOX Sports’ annual coverage of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, as well as FOX Sports’ presentation of the FIA World Endurance Championship. In his racing career, he competed across several domestic and international motorsports series, and was IMSA’s GTO class winner at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1990. Twitter – @calvinfish

IMSA ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP:

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

 

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994