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Dale Jr. to join NBC Sports’ coverage of Indianapolis 500

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NBC Sports’ inaugural coverage of the Indianapolis 500 just got a little bit bigger.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be a roving reporter on race day, as part of a massive coverage group for the race that airs on May 26 on NBC. It’s the first time the race will air on the network, which means there’s quite a team assembled alongside Earnhardt Jr., including analyst Danica Patrick, host Mike Tirico and more.

The full press release is below.

STAMFORD, Conn. – April 3, 2019 – Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of racing’s most popular personalities and an NBC Sports motorsports analyst, will attend his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, as a member of NBC Sports’ broadcast team when the 103rd iteration of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing airs on NBC for the first time.

This marks the latest in a series of major announcements for NBC Sports’ first-ever presentation of the Indy 500. Earlier this year, NBC Sports announced that Mike Tirico will host its coverage, and former INDYCAR and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick will serve as an analyst alongside Tirico. In addition to Earnhardt Jr., NBC Sports motorsports host Krista Voda and reporter Rutledge Wood will contribute to the network’s Indy 500 presentation.

Earnhardt Jr. made 17 career appearances and registered five Top 10 finishes in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will serve as a roving reporter on race day, exploring the expansive scene that includes hundreds of thousands of spectators at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and contributing to NBC Sports’ pre-race, in-race, and post-race coverage alongside Wood. Earnhardt Jr. will also be featured on NBCSN’s Indy 500 coverage originating from Indianapolis Motor Speedway during race week.

Earnhardt Jr. amassed 26 NASCAR victories during his storied career, including two Daytona 500 wins, and joined NBC Sports’ NASCAR broadcast team following his retirement from full-time racing in 2017.

“Dale Jr. is one of the most popular personalities in racing history, so adding Dale to our inaugural broadcast the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on NBC was a no-brainer.” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “Dale has never been able to attend the 500, and now he will have the opportunity to experience every aspect of this massive event –  from the party in the Snake Pit and the hundreds of thousands of fans in the grandstands, to the key strategic decisions and bold moves on track that will ultimately crown the 103rd Indy 500 champion.”

“I can’t wait. This is an event I have wanted to attend for as long as I can remember,” said Earnhardt Jr. “To get this first Indy 500 experience in this capacity – as part of the broadcast team with NBC Sports – is a dream. That said, I fully understand the responsibility we have of bringing this race to television viewers across the country. There’s no better broadcast team to do it. I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

In addition to his work on NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage, Earnhardt Jr. has also contributed to the network’s presentations of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Super Bowl LII, and the Stanley Cup Final.

NBC SPORTS ANNOUNCES FULL INDIANAPOLIS 500 BROADCAST TEAM

Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Townsend Bell (analyst) and Paul Tracy (analyst) will call NBC Sports’ inaugural Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC, which will feature a total of 14 commentators, the most-ever for NBC Sports’ coverage of INDYCAR. Bell and Tracy have combined to make 19 career Indy 500 starts. Tracy was the runner-up in the 2002 Indy 500, while Bell registered a career-best fourth-place Indy 500 finish in 2009. Diffey, who will call his first Indy 500 this May for NBC, has called many of motorsports’ most prestigious events, including the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NBC Sports’ comprehensive Indy 500 commentary team includes host Mike Tirico and former INDYCAR and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick (studio analyst). Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rutledge Wood will provide on-site reports from in and around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Krista Voda will also host pre- and post-race festivities.

Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee and Jon Beekhuis will serve as pit reporters for NBC Sports’ Indianapolis 500 coverage, along with INDYCAR Insider Robin Miller and reporter Dillon Welch.

The 2019 INDYCAR season is the first under a new media rights agreement that was announced in March 2018 in which NBC Sports Group acquired the exclusive rights to all NTT IndyCar Series races – including the Indianapolis 500 for the first time – qualifying and practice sessions, and Indy Lights races across its numerous platforms. Click here for more information.

NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series continues Sunday, April 7, with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from Barber Motorsports Park at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.

Graham Rahal’s “Weighty Issue”

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses laser to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around, there was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“I’ve done one treatment,” Rahal said. “It takes a long time, I think. It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car and that can determine. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter weight drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is, so on…”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy…

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (bleep), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”