What is going on at Indy. I get more press releases about sponsor deals than about drivers and race cars. Now a qualified seat is for sale. And the trade is between to of the biggest names in the 100 year history; Foyt and Andretti. Where are the officials? Will the future of the race be 33 drivers qualify the big money comes in and buys the ride? You may or may not like Roger Penske but when his team failed at Indy he accepted that fact. Jr. and Emo were at the race to spend time with fans. The officials are first and foremost the police of the event. But since they have other considerations like car count and keeping sponsors happy they can’t do their job. It isn’t new to racing. Les Ricther and Bill Gazaway at NASCAR took pride in the hip pocket rule that allowed them to do anything in the ” best interest of the sport “. Not the competition but sport. Everybody has a version of that rule now but only the honorable use it to conduct the event fairly. So., when the 100th Anniversary race begins will it be the 11 rows of 3, the best there is or will it be a talented group of guys with deals?
A Life in Sports Television
I have to apologize my many friends for not posting on this blog regularly. Many have asked why I don’t post more often. The answer is simple. ESPN does not want any posting by its announcers on anything other than its own website. That means that if I want to talk about auto racing I can not do it on this blog. I understand what the company is saying. I hope that when the my book is done it will make up for the lack of blog posts. I will create some new categories soon and talk about other stuff.
I would like you to know my good friend John Kernan now has a blog RPM2NIGHT.COM which I strongly reccomend.
He is every inch an Irishman. The red hair now touched with gray. His dancing eyes filled with Irish mirth. The leprechaun’s nose and chin. The Irish lilt still in his voice after years of international travel. Derek Daly is one of the most famous Irishmen alive and one of the best commentators and drivers I have ever known.
In the early years of CART Derek was assigned to work with me on ESPN. It was a heady time. CART was gaining popularity by leaps and bounds. The two of us were on the crest of that wave. But this was the middle of our relationship.
When Derek first moved from F1 to CART he was well aware of the power of the American Motorsports Press and sought to use it to his advantage. We needed stories and he was a good one. Derek came to racing the hard way. He still carries a photograph of his days as a gold miner trying to work his way up. He worked endlessly and was skillful. Derek was one of those drivers who never had the perfect chance. He accepted less than great cars because he felt strongly in his ability to drive them better that they set up. He took risks in the process. He knew exactly what he was doing every time he did. It is his way.
I first met him face to face at Phoenix international Raceway where we started the CART season. Outgoing and friendly I instantly liked him. I expected him to be a little aloof and superior because he came from F1. I have always been disappointed by F1 drivers. They were all reported to be aloof and arrogant. Not one lived up to the superior attitude billing. Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Jochen Rindt, Peter Revson, Graham McRae, David Hobbs, Martin Brundle, the list goes on and on and I’ve interviewed them all, worked with some and been close friends with some. To a one they were wonderful men first, then racers, then champions. Derek was no exception. He took an interest in you.
At the time we were first getting together he was driving and I was trying to learn to fly an ultra lite I bought from Rick Mears. Derek who was apparently good at it would laugh at my attempts to fulfill a plan I had to fly from my home on the north side of Indy to land on the backstretch at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was right to laugh. I never did it and sold the damn thing. He would kid with you but was never mean. He’d come by the house and we would laugh a lot.
Then came the horrible day at what was then called Michigan International Speedway. Derek crashed his Indycar. Michigan always frightened me even more that Indy. The terminal speeds there were awesome. Think of the accidents there. Merle Bettenhausen lost his arm there, Chip Ganassi and Al Unser Jr crashed coming off two in something we were sure was horrible but the were OK. Pancho Carter did flips down the backstretch. But Derek’s wreck had personality all its own. You knew he shattered his legs. You could see it and almost feel it.
Derek, like so many others, was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. There was a lot of surgery. Like with Rick Mears, there were weeks of sheet time. I would go by in the evening when his visitors were gone. Sometimes he would talk but more often I would just sit there. He looked so frail. I would say a prayer every night for him. Having had similar breaks I knew the pain he felt and the confusion from the drugs. First it was whether or not he would live of be poisoned by the results of such horrible breaks. Then it was would he keep his legs or ever walk. You can’t stop that Irishman even with me praying for him which I’m sure didn’t help. Now you must look very hard to find even a hint of that injury. He recovered in a day before the orthopedic miracles of this age.
Our friendship grew and about a year after his accident he helped me like no other man has done since. My daughter, Marlo, was a Brownie scout. There was a square dance that I couldn’t attend because of work. Derek stepped forward. Despite his pain and breaks he took my little girl as her date to the Daddy / Daughter Dance. If you’re a parent you will understand how important that was.
When we started working together at ESPN it was a natural fit. We were friends at a race and I think that came across to the viewer. Derek took his role seriously and began offering ideas to make the coverage better. He made the producer change the way we covered from the traditional way of posting drivers speeds to posting times on road circuits. We never thought about because we were more oval oriented. He asked the producer why we showed 8 positions on the screen when reporting points. “Because 8 names looked the best” was the answer. Not right argued Derek the top ten are what counts. He made us all rethink the way we did it.
Every now and his injuries would come back to haunt him. At the season closing race at Laguna Seca one year he suddenly started having horrible back spasms. He couldn’t move. Sweat poured off him and he grimaced as he fought the pain. He loaded him on a golf cart and drove him from the TV compound down to the medical coach. I rode next to him on the back and the crowd quieted as we passed. The fans saw his pain. Thank goodness for the CART medical team. After some serious work they had him up and walking. By air time he was ready to go. I would look over from time to time and could see he hurt but he wasn’t about to give up.
We worked a show for the Prime Network at the Indy 500. Each day after practice the producers would go to work a a half hour show that would air at 11PM. The producer had never done a live show and was afraid of going on at 11. He also didn’t want to just tape it early. His solution was to piece each segment together piece by piece. Every night Derek and I would sit in a studio under the old Indy Terrace under the hot lights for 4 hours to piece this half hour show together. It was hard by Derek picked up on everything. It was how he learned TV and he never complained.
We had planned a series for ESPN and then over the counter sale in which Derek would drive and evaluate cars. F1, CART, whatever, he would drive and we would have great shots and unprecedented audio. We had thought up “Top Gear” long before the BBC. But our schedules got mixed up and it never got done.
Derek and I talk occasionally now but we rarely see each other. It’s my loss. I thought for a while we would get back together in the closing years at CART. The deal was all set for us to work together. Derek told the producer he wanted to work with me again but the deal fell through at the last minute. Derek now spends a great deal of time teaching his son, Connor, his arts as a racer. He gives motivational speeches and of course is a great TV commentator. Like racing, TV still hasn’t given him the best tools to use but he still makes everyone he works with look better. He was at his peak when F1 had the tire issues at the USGP at Indy. He was all over the story while the producers still didn’t accept that many would pull out. He knows his subject and gets it on the air. He’s one of the best.
He everyone. This web site turned into a monster. Well it is fixed now (I hope) and so you should see some new material here.
It is time for the “Big Go”. The U S Nationals. ESPN has plenty of coverage planned so don’t miss any of it the Labor Day weekend.
In a week I will get my 33rd Degree of Masonry. It is still hard to believe. I am told the ceremony in Philadelphia will be very emotional. I wonder when we get the secrets answered. When it is over I should know who really killed Kennedy, what is at Roswell, and where Obama was born along with all the great secrets of history.
USA Today had a nice mention of me in the Sports on TV Column doing X Games this weekend. I thought it was even better that my old friend Don Ohlmeyer was mentioned in the same column. Don was my director for years in CART and at the Indy 500. It was Don and I that put the “Delta Force” openings together.
There are several new links on the blog now.Here is part of one of them. Or you can click on the link and read it all.
“I grew up watching Paul Page commentating on IndyCar broadcasts. Page’s unique voice has a way of making IndyCar seem exciting and meaningful; he is perhaps the only contemporary motor sport commentator in the United States who can be considered an equivalent to the legendary Murray Walker.
It is absolutely tragic that he no longer works on the IndyCar shows. However, there is good news for fans of Paul Page: he will be contributing to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s radio broadcast on race day.
I have embedded a video of Paul Page’s Indianapolis 500 “Delta Force” intro from 1992. Every year from 1988 to 1998, he would make one of these breathtaking works of art to kick off the broadcast, always with the exciting theme from the Delta Force soundtrack, always with his near poetic narration.
How times have changed since 1992. The Indianapolis 500 of today is an embarrassment to its great history and to all the competitors who went there to prove that their race car was the fastest ever seen on the track, and that their drivers were brave enough to venture into unknown speeds.
Sorry it has been so long since I have been on the blog. Right after the Indy 500 things got busy. NHRA’s schedule was full. Joey Chestnut ate more hot dogs than a human should. My ESPN bosses were working out a blog policy. The board idiots at my condo think they are superior to the U S Constitution. Other than that……
Then came August and a major shock. I was nominated to the 33rd Degree of Freemasonry! Talk about out of the blue. I never would have guessed I was up for this singular honor.
Today I am sitting with Mike Dunn in our “cave” (the back of a semi) we use as a booth for the ESPN2 NHRA shows. It is pouring rain here in Memphis. So our producer Eric is on the phone to ESPN trying to figure out what we will put on the air if it keeps raining. All of the announcers are here Dave Reiff, Gary Gerould, and John Kernan. Stat Guy is across the table working away on new, way out, stats.
Next week it is off to Richmond Va. 4 weeks in a row of drag racing. The poor teams are tired.
While I can intellectually deal with this fact it still staggers me. It takes at least 8 IndyCars to equal the power of a single TF dragster. I wonder what it would sound like to put our NHRA 16 cars on the strip and warm them up all at the same time. Maybe some day.
It was fun to see so many drag racers at the 500. Spencer Massey, The Snake, Lee Beard to name a few were all on the track before the start. Chip Ganassi and I talked about how cool he thinks the NHRA is and gave a hint he may want a team. Humpy Wheeler, the former president at Lowes motor speedway, is still concerned that a drag strip was built across from the oval. He says you can’t make money. I gave him the phone numbers at Brainerd and Gainsville. I was disappointed that Mike Fluger, who works with Robb Flynn and Brandon Bernstiens car didn’t get an Indy gig. The IndyCar guys call him Nitro Mike and he often helps as a pickup over the wall crew member.
Topeka NEXT!!!!!! The only state capitol without a commercial airport. No matter the drive from KC is about an hour and beautiful. With a week off the NHRA gang will have retooled and look ahead to a pretty rough run of tight scheduling; Topeka, Chicago, Englishtown then the Westren Swing. Summer fun in the sun with the fastest accelerating cars on earth.
I am having trouble understanding my good fortune this week. Tuesday the Grand Masonic Lodge of Indiana gave me the Order of Service to Masonry. It is huge. Only 18 me hold it. I was totally blindsided. My thanks to my brothers who made it happen.
Today I was inducted into the National Association of Auto Racing Fan Clubs Hall of Fame. I was seated between the greatest car builder in Indy history A J Watson and Tom Bigelow former Indy driver for Sherm Armstrong. Next down was Mel Kenyon “Mr Midget” Mario Andretti told some great stories. Andy Granetelli was honored as well. And my friend Eddie Sachs III was honored.
Tomorrow it’s up early to get to the track and work on the Radio Network. Life is smokin’
Then to Topeka for NHRA and back to by buds there. BTW I am seeing a good many drag racing friends here in Indy. crowd at the track yesterday was great.
We are coming up on two great weeks. First is this weekend as I travel to Tri Cities TN for the NHRA drag race in Thunder Valley at Bruton Smith’s great facility at Bristol. Then it’s Indy 500 week.
First a question. Does anyone have a clue as to why it is called “drag racing”? If you do let me know.
As you can see by the back to back events I am living large right now. I love the Full Throttle series. So many fans have kindly shown me affection and support it reminds me so much of my early days in racing. That’s the beauty of the NHRA. Everyone helps one another. Everyone is a friend and we are all having fun.
Then there is the Indy 500. I just got my assignment for race day from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. I will do three commentary/reports; before the race, in the middle and after it ends. Mike King and the IMSRN are kind to ask me. I walked through the Speedway last week and the fans were great. Many waved and said hi or welcome back. I should not have been surprised at how many NHRA fans also enjoy the IRL. All through the garages I was answering questions about what was up in drag racing. Crews and drivers all want to know what’s happening in NHRA. Ryan Briscoe recalled his visit to the NHRA event at Concord last year. Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, is a huge NHRA fan. It was way cool!
So I get this cameo at Indy and then back to working with Mike, Dave, and Gary. The NHRA rocks and I’m proud to be a part of it.
In 1973 the biggest moment of my life occurred. I was invited to join the IMS Radio network. Well it has happened again! As many of you know I love radio. Well today I was asked to be a part of the radio broadcast of the Indianapolis 500. I’m very pleased with that and wanted to share it with all of you first. It’s a good thing there are no events in the NHRA deal that conflict.
A special thanks to Mike King who had this idea and got it done.
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