Roger Diez: Big weekend for racing around the world | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Big weekend for racing around the world

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal
Nevada Appeal | Nevada Appeal

It is Memorial Day weekend, when we honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. It’s also one of the biggest racing weekends of the year, with the Indy 500, the Monaco Grand Prix, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, the Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park, and a points race at Fernley 95A Speedway.

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Mackena Bell’s weekend in Iowa could have gone better. She was caught up in a wreck and was unable to finish the race. The race is being televised this morning on Fox Sports 1, but if you’re not up early you probably missed it. Bell’s next outing is May 31 at Bowman Gray Stadium.

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Last Tuesday I sat in on a conference call with the broadcast team (Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever, and Scott Goodyear) for tomorrow’s Indy 500. This will be the 50th year of ABC’s affiliation with the Indy 500, one of the longest-running broadcast partnerships in sports. I learned some interesting things about this year’s broadcast, including the number of cameras used. There will be 92 of them, with 36 being in-car cameras. There is also a helicopter cam, robotic and hand-held cams, and ultra slow motion cams. Feeds from many of the in-car cameras will be available on WatchESPN.com.

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I remember watching the race as a segment of ABC’s Wide World of Sports in black and white, then on same-day tape delay, and finally live in color. Chris Economaki, the dean of motorsports journalism, was a long-time fixture as pit reporter, actually pioneering that role.

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It is Bestwick’s first time anchoring the 500, although he has called NASCAR races for over 20 years. In fact, I remember meeting him in the late 1980s at Sonoma when he was a turn reporter with MRN. He has some big shoes to fill, as previous Indy 500 anchors are sports announcing legends Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, and Jim Lampley as well as seasoned motorsports announcers Bob Jenkins, Paul Page, and Marty Reid. McKay had the longest tenure, 18 years, while Page anchored 14 Indy broadcasts and Reid eight. When I asked Bestwick about the transition from calling stock cars to open-wheel cars, he said that he had done a lot of research, toured shops, met with drivers and team managers to come up to speed. But Indy isn’t new to him, since he has worked the NASCAR Brickyard 400 since 1994. The bottom line, he said, is that although strategies, styles, and terminology may be a little different, it’s still an auto race.

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Both Goodyear and Cheever weighed in on the significance of having two former 500 winners, Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya, back at Indy. While Montoya is back in the series for the full season, the race is a one-off for Villeneuve, at least at present. They also discussed the prospects for the season’s rookies, including Kurt Busch, and the likelihood of a small team or a part-time driver being able to best the multi-car teams of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti. Speaking of Andretti, they also touched on the “Andretti curse” at the Speedway, and the pressure on Marco to perform.

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Of course, there are a couple of other significant races taking place today; one in Charlotte, one in Kansas, and another in Monaco. The Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s longest race; Kansas marks the one-third mark in the 2014 NHRA season; and Monaco is Formula One’s most glamorous event. Both should prove interesting. At Charlotte, drivers who are not yet locked into the Chase are getting anxious, not the least of whom are Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. And in Monaco, all the other teams are scratching their heads trying to figure out a way to beat the Mercedes juggernaut that has won every race so far this season. In NHRA’s Mello Yello series, Doug Kalitta holds a slim seven-point lead over Antron Brown in Top Fuel while Robert Hight is 206 points ahead of his boss, John Force, in Funny Car, and Erica Anders-Stevens leads the Pro Stock division by 110 over Jason Line.