By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. ABC broadcasts to focus on story-telling
2. Fuzzy’s waves green flag for activation in 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series
3. Juncos signs Horto for Firestone Indy Lights; De Phillippi, Scuncio for Star Mazda
4. Pigot claims second USF2000 race at Sebring
1. ABC broadcasts to focus on story-telling: The Indianapolis 500 was a Memorial Day weekend staple in the youth of Rich Feinberg, who would rush home from the Jersey shore to catch Jim McKay calling the action on the ABC broadcast.
His initial visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was in 1986 as part of the TV production team, and he joined ESPN in ’93 as a coordinating producer. Feinberg has been involved in motorsports coverage (among other projects) ever since, and now as VP motorsports oversees the combined resources of ESPN’s studio and event production.
This year he’ll again be part of the Indianapolis 500 broadcast – the 48th consecutive year for the ABC-Speedway partnership – and five other IZOD IndyCar Series races, including the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (12:30 p.m. March 25). ABC’s race coverage will be expanded this year to include live streaming of onboard cameras on ESPN3.
The balance of the events will be televised on the recently rebranded NBC Sports Network.
“Our approach toward broadcasting the IZOD IndyCar Series remains intact,” says Feinberg, who notes that the producer and director team (James Shifton and Bruce Watson) return for 2012. “First and foremost, our obligation is to serve the fans by documenting the competition. We have a saying in the mobile unit that when there’s a pass for the lead it very well could be a pass for the win. We focus on our story-telling, our technology and most important the entertainment value to fans.”
ABC and NBC Sports Network viewers will get a different perspective on IZOD IndyCar Series races thanks to technology implemented by Broadcast Sports Inc., which worked with Dallara Automobili to integrate the existing 360-degree HD roll hoop camera and three others into the chassis (on the rear wing for a panoramic forward-facing shot, one in the right-side radiator duct to offer suspension and side views, and one on the rear view mirror to provide a detailed view of the driver steering and shifting).
ABC and NBC Sports Network crews filmed elements at media day in St. Petersburg, Fla., with the ABC footage destined for domestic and international broadcasts and ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
“We’ll also produce a piece for ‘Sports Science’ that focuses on new chassis and the different dynamic elements that fans can expect,” Feinberg says.
ESPN International’s agreement with INDYCAR will provide coverage with a reach of more than 189 million homes in 143 countries and territories. With additional syndication in 31 countries and 38.4 million homes, and ABC’s U.S. reach of 114,700,000, television distribution exceeds 342.2 million homes in 176 countries worldwide.
In addition, U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world will be able to watch live via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network, bringing the total to 213 countries and territories around the world. Also, TSN and TSN2 – along with French-speaking RDS and RDS2 — will televise every race to Canadian viewers. TSN schedule
The ABC, ESPN International and NBC Sports Network contracts with INDYCAR run concurrently through 2018.
“(ABC gets) first pick. As part of our deal they have options where they consider races above the minimal number,” says Robby Greene, president and COO of IMS Productions. “The new agreement starts in 2013, but they have six races this year. That’s good for INDYCAR when you can get in front of that many people.
“I think we’re very lucky because the people that represent their brand and are responsible for promoting ours are INDYCAR enthusiasts. I think there’s a different between being an enthusiast and a fan — especially from the promotional side. Enthusiasts, people who understand our sport, are genuinely interested. They get it; they consider it to be one of the staples in their building blocks of what their network represents.
“(When we were negotiating a new deal in 2011) what proof of performance is better for them to say off the cuff this is the deal we want to make? We think you’re worth more. You’re heading in the right direction, people are noticing and we’re going to position ourselves with you for that growth.”
2. Fuzzy’s Waves The Green Flag for Activation in 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series: Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, the official vodka of INDYCAR, will kick off the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights seasons by introducing the Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour, a week-long series of parties and celebrations in race markets geared toward promoting the upcoming INDYCAR event and exposing the Fuzzy’s brand to the local and race community.
In each North American race market throughout the year, the Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour will hold parties at a select location beginning the Monday before and ending after the race designed to enhance the fan experience and extend the race weekend with energy and celebrations all week long.
The 2012 Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour begins on Monday, March 19 in St. Petersburg, Florida at Red Mesa Cantina. Parties will be held at Red Mesa Cantina on Monday through Saturday from 9-11 p.m. to celebrate the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening race of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series. After the race on March 25 the celebration will start at 5 p.m.
“Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Is looking forward to waving the green flag on an exciting new experience for INDYCAR fans,” said Eric Timmerman, CEO of Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka. “This tour is designed to create fan interaction outside the track and establish locations throughout the country where INDYCAR fans can interact and support the series. When the Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour tees off in St. Petersburg at Red Mesa Cantina it will be the start of a great round during the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Season. The full list of tour stop locations for this season will be announced very soon.”
In addition to hosting the Green Flag Tour parties, Fuzzy’s will conduct a Fuzzy’s Vodka Girl Contest to select 15 women each night who will serve as Fuzzy’s ambassadors throughout the weekend.
Fuzzy’s Vodka girls will be selected at parties on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of race week in each market. The 15 winners will host Tour’s parties from Thursday through Sunday, be integrated into official pre-race activities on Race Day and participate in Fuzzy’s activities in INDYCAR’s Fan Village and Paddock Club.
Winners will be selected based on their personality, knowledge of Indy car racing and the overall ability to engage INDYCAR fans. To enter the Fuzzy’s Vodka Girl Contest in each market, please arrive at the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Green Flag Tour Stop one hour prior to the event on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the race week.
At the conclusion of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series, on-line fan voting will determine the best Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour Stop and the winning account will be honored at the series season finale. Additionally, 12 grid girl participants will be chosen based on fan voting online to appear in a special Fuzzy’s Vodka Girls calendar with all proceeds going to charity.
In addition to the Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour, Fuzzy’s activation program includes a presence in INDYCAR’s Fan Village and the creation of a series of specialty INDYCAR cocktails that will be featured at INDYCAR events such as the Indianapolis 500 Championship banquet and the IZOD IndyCar Series season-ending banquet of which Fuzzy’s is the presenting sponsor.
“This alliance with Fuzzy’s presents INDYCAR with an asset that will allow us to engage a new, more youthful fan demographic,” said Marc Koretzky, chief operating officer of INDYCAR. “The Fuzzy’s Green Flag Tour, grid girl program and specialty INDYCAR cocktails add an element of fun and excitement to our race weekends and provide our fans with more value for their entertainment dollars.”
3. Juncos signs Horto for Firestone Indy Lights; De Phillippi, Scuncio for Star Mazda: Juncos Racing announced several drivers today throughout its Mazda Road to Indy programs. Martin Scuncio and Connor De Phillippi will be competing in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, and J.V. Horto will compete the season in Firestone Indy Lights.
Scuncio, 20, will be competing in his second season with Juncos Racing. The 2008 Chilean Formula 3 Champion’s racing program came together after Juncos Racing announced its partnership with the Chilean Formula 3 Association and FADECH, an agreement that will provide financial support for each season’s Formula 3 Champion to compete with Juncos Racing in its Mazda Road to Indy ladder.
“I’m really excited about this season and want to thank Juncos Racing for another opportunity to race for them again this year,” Scuncio said. “Connor joining the team will bring more experience and learning opportunities for me and the other drivers at Juncos.”
De Phillippi, who finished second in the 2011 Star Mazda Championship with four wins and two poles, will compete in his third Star Mazda season. De Phillippi’s recent partnership with ModSpace Motorsports secured his return to compete in Star Mazda for the 2012 season.
“I think that with the success that Juncos Racing has had in the past, there is a lot of good experience on the team to allow us to be very competitive this year,” De Phillippi said. “I’m looking forward to teaming up with Martin and pushing each other to the limit for the championship each and every race. I would like to thank Juncos Racing and ModSpace Motorsports for giving me this opportunity to compete this season.”
Scuncio and De Phillippi join Diego Ferreira and Bruno Palli as part of a four-car lineup for Juncos Racing’s Star Mazda Championship effort.
The team recently moved up to competition in Firestone Indy Lights, and will go with Horto to lead its expanded effort.
“I am very happy and blessed to be racing this year,” Horto said. “After years of experience and good results, I feel really confident to be moving up to Indy Lights, especially with Juncos Racing. I believe that together we will show that a rookie driver and a new team in the series can reach great results.”
Though 2012 will be the rookie season in the series for Horto and Juncos Racing, Ricardo Juncos has composed a team that will be guided by the experience of Engineer Darrell Soppe and Crew Chief Jimmy Pinkley, former Firestone Indy Lights team Davey Hamilton Racing. Horto will pilot the No. 86 car supported by Programa Leilões.
“I’m so happy to have Joao continue with us as we move into the Firestone Indy Lights Series,” Juncos said. “The support we have received from Joao and his family with our new project will only help make this new team succeed. I also want to thank everyone involved expanding Juncos Racing into the next level, with special thanks to Doc Wagner, all Juncos Racing crew members, Joao and his family, and my wife and son.”
4. Pigot claims second USF2000 race at Sebring: Spencer Pigot pulled off an outside pass of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Matthew Brabham following a full-course caution to ensure victory in the second round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at Sebring International Raceway.
Brabham, 18, who started from the pole by virtue of setting fastest lap en route to victory in the March 15 season opener, took advantage of quick early laps to pull more than 3.5 seconds clear of Pigot in the opening stages. That lead evaporated in an instant, however, when the full-course caution flags waved after five laps because of two cars off-course on the 3.7-mile circuit.
“The race was very tough at the end but it was looking pretty good at the start,” Brabham said. “I was out in front by quite a bit and was just pounding out the laps. I am disappointed how it finished, but Spencer was very, very good on the restart and managed to get me.”
On the restart, Pigot drafted to the outside of his rival on the approach in to Turn 1 to edge past Brabham on the exit. Brabham remained glued to Pigot’s gearbox, but the 18-year-old from Orlando, Fla., remained out in front when the caution flags waved again shortly afterward following a major pile-up in Turn 7 that eliminated several cars, including the third Cape Motorsports car of Trent Hindman who had driven from the back of the 35-car field to 13th in the opening stages.
“The race obviously ended up pretty well for me,” Pigot said. “Matt was faster when we took the green (flag) so it was tough to keep up with him. I knew the restart was going to be my only chance to try for the win and I was able to get him on the outside of Turn One. Overall, it was a good weekend from where we started off yesterday. It is great to get a win when you are not really the fastest guy out there so it’s pretty satisfying. A big thanks to Cape Motorsports, Team Pelfrey, Doug Mockett and all of my sponsors.”
Roman Lagudi, 16, who was born in Sydney, Australia, and now lives in Las Vegas ran in third place throughout for Belardi Auto Racing, under pressure from the Res Precast/MDL Racing Van Diemen-Mazda of Matthew Di Leo.
Neil Alberico, from Los Gatos, Calif., rose from seventh on the grid to claim fifth for JDC MotorSports after a good battle with Chicago’s Timmy Megenbier (Afterburner Autosport) and second-row starter Thomas McGregor from Saskatoon (Andretti Autosport) who slipped to eighth on the opening lap before moving to seventh ahead of Scott Anderson (Belardi Auto Racing).
One of the most impressive drives came from Luigi Biangardi (ArmsUp Motorsports). The 15-year-old from Chicago qualified on pole March 15 but made a tardy start and then was involved in a first-corner crash. Despite having to start the second race at the back of the field, the youngster fought his way all the way through to ninth at the checkered flag.
The National Class was won by 15-year-old Norwegian Henrik Furuseth (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) after a lengthy scrap with first-race winner Mark Eaton (Robinson Motor Sports), from Melbourne, Fla.