View from the pits: Reporters’ picks for 103rd Indianapolis 500

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It’s Race Day in Indianapolis, and for the first time, the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Time will tell what impact Mother Nature has on today’s 103rd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But no matter what, prerace coverage begins today on NBCSN at 9 a.m. ET, then transitions over to NBC at 11 a.m. ET.

All month long, the INDYCAR on NBC pit reporters have been bringing you the latest breaking news and stories for the Brickyard. Now, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider share their insights from pit road. Read on …

KEVIN LEE

Throughout the last two weeks, one common theme has been, “Don’t crash.” There were five crashes, and four of those teams/drivers ended up in the Last Row Shootout. Two of the three bumped (Patricio O’Ward and Fernando Alonso) were in backup cars following heavy impacts.

Several drivers have consistently been among the strongest. Simon Pagenaud (pictured, left) not only starts on pole but has been strong in race trim as well. All three Ed Carpenter Racing cars are fast and appear good in traffic. Alexander Rossi looks like he can put his car wherever he wants, and Scott Dixon has five championships and 44 IndyCar wins, so he must be watched.

In order, my picks for most likely to drink the milk are Pagenaud, Rossi, Ed Carpenter, Will Power and Dixon.

KELLI STAVAST

A week ago, no one could have predicted that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and McLaren Racing would be bumped from the Indy 500 by a single-car, part-time effort of Juncos Racing and its driver, Kyle Kaiser (pictured, right).  But it happened, and Kaiser now occupies the 33rd and final spot in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

So what next?  I spoke with Kyle five days after the dramatic qualifying effort, and he told me he has never been happier to finish last and that he is still “buzzing” from that experience—an energy he hopes to carry straight through to the race.  He also told me that the response from fans has been positive with people stopping him in public (including at Chipotle) to hug him and congratulate him on making the Big Show.

But reality might have set in for the Californian who now lives in Indy.  During Carb Day’s final practice, the team struggled to get a good handling car for Kyle, who described the day as “challenging.”  But Kaiser also acknowledged that the team made some progress throughout the practice and at the very least collected some data that might help for the 500-miler on Sunday.

Whether he finishes 1st or 31st on Sunday, Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing will have plenty of fond memories to carry with them from the 103rd Indy 500.

MARTY SNIDER

First, we cannot wait to bring you guys the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s an honor for our entire group to broadcast such an amazing event.

So what do we expect? I have no idea, to be honest. The weather will be a huge factor today. It might be a race to halfway if rain is forecast.  If it’s cooler (mid 70’s ambient, which it looks like it’s going to be), Alexander Rossi (pictured, left) was unstoppable in those conditions last Monday.

But Rossi was very unhappy with his car on Carb Day. For that matter, most teams were. But Rob Edwards of Andretti Autosport explained a few things to Rossi about all of the experimenting they were doing in final practice, and I think that team is in a much better frame of mind heading into the race.

I find it interesting that Simon Pagenaud’s team scuffed in literally every set of tires they will use for today’s race. The No. 22 camp is convinced (and they’re not wrong) that one of the keys to Will Power’s 2018 win was his ability to gain time on out laps after pit stops. Scuffing in tires helps that out lap time. It also allows teams to do a balance check on tires. Good thing they did: Kyle Moyer of Team Penske found two sets that had vibrations, which would have been bad in the race.

Bottom line, I haven’t seen anyone really stand out and show me they can beat Alexander Rossi yet. So I’m going with Rossi to win his second Indy 500.

Enjoy the show friends. It’s going to be a fantastic race!

Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick team up again on NBC’s Indy 500 coverage

Danica Patrick Mike Tirico
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Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick will return to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Indianapolis 500, which will be broadcast Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC (green flag at 2:30 p.m.).

Tirico and Patrick, who both joined NBC Sports for its inaugural coverage of the event last year, will reprise their roles as host and studio analyst.

One of the most versatile voices in sports, Tirico also hosts NBC Olympics’ primetime coverage, Football Night in America and many other premier events, including hosting on-site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year for the first-ever IndyCar-NASCAR crossover weekend.

AT THE BRICKYARD: Daily Indy 500 coverage schedule on NBC, NBCSN

He again will be joined during prerace, in-race, and postrace coverage by Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005 and also was the first female pole-sitter in NASCAR driver.

They will make their debut together duing practice coverage on Aug. 21, on NBCSN.

“My first Indy 500 last year exceeded my very high expectations in every way,” Tirico said in a release. “Although this year’s race will take place under unprecedented circumstances, I can’t wait to get back to Indy. I’m confident that our team at the Brickyard will provide viewers with as exciting a viewing experience as possible. I am also thrilled that Danica Patrick is along for the ride again this year. We had such a great time last May and look forward to bringing Indy home for the viewers again.”

Said Patrick: “The Indianapolis 500 is an event that transcends mainstream and motorsports which is why it’s so special. We are living during a time that if we can bring people together, we should. Even if it’s not physically. I am honored to be back with the NBC Sports team and Mike Tirico. The memories I have from 15 years at IMS hold such a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to make more this year in the booth, or however we are positioned in 2020!”

This will mark NBC Sports’ second season as the exclusive home of the NTT IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500, which will take place in August for the first time ever because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.