ESPN formally announced Tuesday morning that longtime NASCAR announcer, Allan Bestwick, will call ESPN on ABC's five IndyCar Series race events including their 50th airing of the Indianapolis 500 mile race and '500' qualifying in 2014 and beyond, replacing Marty Reid.
Bestwick, who has served as a pit reporter and studio host in addition to his booth work for ESPN's stock car coverage since 2007, will also expand to cover tennis, golf, college football and other collegiate sports in 2015 when the network's NASCAR contract rights end following the 2014 season.
"I didn't get into the business to be a race announcer," said Bestwick. "I wanted to be a broadcaster my whole life. One of the inspirations was watching that Sunday night broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 and watching Jim McKay, one of my heroes.
To have the opportunity to sit in that seat on this occasion, ABC's 50th anniversary of televising this race, is a little hard to fathom in some ways for a kid from Rhode Island.”
Bestwick's motorsports coverage dates back 28 years, as noted in ESPN's press release:
Bestwick started broadcasting in 1986 covering live NASCAR races as a turn announcer for MRN Radio. He worked for MRN for nearly 15 years, including as the play-by-play announcer from 1988-2000 and host of the network’s daily news program.
Bestwick, who also worked briefly in New York for ABC Radio, made his television debut in 1995 on the original NASCAR Today program on ESPN and joined the SPEED Channel in 1996 as the host of Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing, a post he held for 10 years. He started pit reporting for TBS and TNT in 1997. While continuing to work in radio, Bestwick joined NBC in 1999, covering NASCAR races as well as American Le Mans Series races, arena football and track and field events. He was part of NBC and TNT’s NASCAR coverage from 2001-2006, both as a pit reporter and lead announcer.
"Like I said, the Indianapolis 500, when I was a kid, I got this book from the book club at school. It was called 30 Days in May. I don't remember who wrote it. Story of the 1970 Indianapolis 500. I dog-eared that book. I swear I read it 18 times.
I have been fascinated with this race and this place ever since. Most of my career has found me in Charlotte, North Carolina, on this weekend. But I can't wait to be part of this and get started. "
Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever will join Bestwick in the booth with Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Rick DeBruhul in the pits. Dr. Jerry Punch will join the crew at Indianapolis and one other event.
"I grew up a fan of traditional broadcasting, if you will. I'm 52 years old," Bestwick, continued. "I'm a child of that era. The alphabet networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, were which you aspired to.
Like I said before, to have a chance to sit in that seat at that race where one of my idols and heroes first helped get me interested in this business in the first place, it's almost hard to comprehend.
I'm just a kid from a little town in Rhode Island, small town, whose daddy raced Studebakers at a quarter and a half mile racetrack. It's amazing. I'm very blessed. I'm very lucky.
What does it mean to me? It means responsibility. It means getting it right. But that's no different than any other broadcast I've ever done in this business. You owe it to the competitors, to the fans, to yourself to get it right, and have fun while you're doing it.
People can't have fun watching it if you're not having fun doing it. I'll have a blast doing it."
Also announced at the IndyCar media day in Orlando, Florida was that both the Long Beach Grand Prix and Grand Prix of Indianapolis will use the standing start format.
This is fantastic news for our fans,” said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “They will love hearing the sounds of the IndyCar engines revving up and then the cars roaring down Shoreline Drive. Thanks to IndyCar and especially to Derrick Walker for granting our request. This is a great addition to all of the other activities we have planned as we celebrate 40 years of racing in the streets of Long Beach.”