VERSUS' passion at forefront of telecasts

By Dave Lewandowski

06 Mar 2010

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Bob Jenkins’ voice resonates with anticipation and passion as the veteran broadcaster discusses the fast-approaching IZOD IndyCar Series season and his involvement.
The chief announcer for VERSUS’ coverage says he’s been “waiting since Homestead-Miami to get back at it again.” That will be March 13-14 on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil.
VERSUS and ABC will combine to broadcast all 17 IZOD IndyCar Series races in high-definition where available. VERSUS again will air 12 races, including three of the first four on street/road courses. Each race telecast will have a three-hour window and include extensive pre- and post-race coverage. A one-hour race preview/qualifications show airs the day before each race (2 p.m. ET March 13 for the São Paulo Indy 300). Races on VERSUS will be re-aired primarily on Mondays (check local listings). The network also will telecast Indianapolis 500 time trials and ancillary programming.
ABC’s first race will be the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 28 (3:30 p.m. ET).
It’s the second year that VERSUS will be an IZOD IndyCar Series broadcast partner, and the entire on-air team returns. Jenkins will be joined in the booth by Jon Beekhuis and Robbie Buhl. Robbie Floyd, Jack Arute and Lindy Thackston will provide trackside updates and reports during each telecast.
“A year ago at this time we had assembled a team, but for the most part we had never worked together,” Jenkins said. “In fact, I had never met Lindy and had only talked briefly with Robbie Floyd. Robbie Buhl and I had worked together the previous two years doing the Firestone Indy Lights telecasts and, of course, Jack Arute and I have worked together at various places over the years. So we had no idea how things would go.
“But I must say I’m extremely pleased at how things worked out. Under Jack’s guidance, the pit reporters adapted quickly and did a great job covering the place where races can be won or lost. Working in the booth with Robbie Buhl and Jon Beekhuis was great fun. Robbie was able to bring out his sense of humor several times during the year, and Jon is just incredible when it comes to technical stuff and how and why a car is doing what it’s doing. He and Robbie also have the ability to determine the various strategies that a team is using in the race. Me? I just sit back and referee if they ‘get into it.’
“The entire package is held together by the team that's been assembled in the truck.  All are veterans of TV production and certainly know what they’re doing. They’re also all race fans.
"Prior to last year I had worked with Rich O'Connor only once. He produces all pre-race programming, including the qualifying shows. He’s passionate about his job and does it extremely well. Terry Lingner produces the races, and he and I go back to the ‘70s. There simply is no better producer in the business.
“Although we hadn’t worked together for awhile, it didn't take us long to get back ‘into step.’ The people at VERSUS have been very supportive of us. It’s a pleasure to work for a network that cares about the IZOD IndyCar Series, and has time for us to do some extra programming for the race fans. I said at the end of the final race last year that although we’re happy with what we all did in 2009, it will not be our best year.”
Lingner has implemented a simple plan for the race broadcasts – let the personalities come through.
“There’s really not a lot of magic to it other than to say my No. 1 goal is to make sure we show our passion and show the chemistry we have,” he said. “The viewer will pick up on it in a second and the word spreads.”
Marty Reid and former IZOD IndyCar Series driver Scott Goodyear return to the booth to host ABC’s five races, including the Indianapolis 500. Eddie Cheever, who won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 1998, will join them for the May 30 race.
ESPN Sports, which produces broadcasts for ABC, will have Jerry Punch (Indy 500 only), Vince Welch, Jamie Little and Rick DeBruhl as pit reporters. DeBruhl is new to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Punch, who worked the ‘500’ for 17 consecutive years, returns for the first time since 2006.
ESPN senior motorsports producer Neil Goldberg will produce the Indianapolis 500 telecast, as well as the St. Petersburg and Kansas telecasts. ESPN producer James Shiftan will produce the Watkins Glen and Toronto telecasts. Bruce Watson will be ESPN’s director for all five races.
The IZOD IndyCar Series continues its long-time association with ESPN International for worldwide (excluding the United States and Brazil) distribution of broadcast rights through 2010, with a two-year option for both parties beginning in 2011.
The IZOD IndyCar Series announced multi-year multimedia partnerships with ABC and VERSUS in August 2008. The 10-year partnership with VERSUS includes at least 12 live races per year. The partnership with ABC is highlighted by the network’s continued coverage of the Indianapolis 500 through 2012.

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