IMSA

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.

 

Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda dies at 70

AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File
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BERLIN (AP) Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”

Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”

“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”

The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles anymore.”

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.

On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.