03.08.2016 – There’s a lot of positive momentum fueling the Verizon IndyCar Series program these days. The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is garnering massive attention and is certainly the highlight of an expanded schedule that includes the return of two very popular venues in Phoenix and Road America. As it has been for many years, all of this tangible excitement will be delivered to the world through the IndyCar Radio Network, which will once again paint the picture of each and every on-track session from St. Petersburg to Sonoma through their live audio play-by-play. The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is a big part of the network’s focus as well, streaming all of the on-track sessions from the top step of the Mazda Road to Indy. The network is primed to move into a new chapter this year, as veteran broadcaster Mark Jaynes will take over the anchor position of the on-air team, and the response to this recent announcement was extremely positive, as expected. Mark is a talented broadcaster with a deep passion for the sport. Following the races at St. Petersburg, Phoenix, Long Beach and Barber, the legendary Paul Page will ‘hand the baton’ to Mark after the start of the Indy 500, ushering into a new era for the network that has such a storied history.
Of all the things I’ve been able to experience over the course of my 20-year career as a motorsports journalist and race announcer, being part of the IndyCar Radio Network team is among the most important to me. It’s been pretty surreal, to be honest. As I embark on my seventh season as the ‘voice’ of the Mazda Road to Indy, a post that also puts me on pit lane as a reporter during the Indy Lights radio broadcasts, I’m thrilled that I will be expanding my role to include additional Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2016. While simply being part of the action and evolving my career is both thrilling and personally satisfying, I think most people who are life-long athletes will understand what it means to be part of a ‘team’. As a play-by-play announcer in karting and the MRTI, I’m normally in the solo role, making the call as the only voice during the race. With Indy Lights, I’m fortunate to be part of a true squad, one that features a line-up of quality broadcasters. The focus of this particular Road to Indy Insider segment is to highlight the personalities who work to bring a pro-level audio broadcast to the Indy Lights series, which is a crucial component in developing the overall marketing and awareness for the future stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
One of the key components that makes the IndyCar Radio Network team so enjoyable to listen to is a sheer passion for IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. The core line-up that will roll into 2016, quarterbacked by Jaynes, includes Davey Hamilton, Nick Yeoman, Jake Query and Michael Young. These guys have such a love for IndyCar racing that you can’t help but be drawn into the broadcast. When it comes to radio, the key skills are knowledge, timing and descriptive storytelling, and these guys are absolute experts in the field. They don’t have the TV images to tell the story…this happens through their chosen words and the control of their voices. I consider it an honor to be set to join them at between 10-12 IndyCar races this year, in addition to the full Indy Lights schedule. Jaynes has worked the Indy Lights events since doing the first Freedom 100 in 2003 and Nick has been with the network since 2010. With Mark’s promotion to the IndyCar lead chair, Nick will be given a well-deserved appointment to anchor our Indy Lights broadcasts. Regardless of their respective positions, I simply want to use this Insider piece to speak about the talented people who I’ve enjoyed working with over the last two years.
As a ‘rookie’ on the team in 2014, I often found myself walking up and down pit lane during our Indy Lights broadcasts just listening to Mark call the Indy Lights action. I’m a big fan of his voice and his delivery, which I believe will allow him to cement his place in the network anchor history. You can hear his respect for both the drivers and the series in his voice. Mark began his tenure with the network in 1996, working pit lane, and on his 21st anniversary with the crew, he will get his opportunity to captain the ship. For me, however, his equal dedication to the Indy Lights program is what has set him apart. In 2014, we had to prop up a small grid that often included just 8-10 cars, but Mark’s passion for the series and its place as a development program for the IndyCar Series kept him on top of everything. I have a great love for the Mazda Road to Indy, and Mark’s desire to promote the USF2000 and Pro Mazda drivers during the Indy Lights broadcast has provided great exposure and awareness for our younger pilots. Mark’s commitment to the entire MRTI effort is incredible, and he’s respected by everyone in the ladder system paddock, as a result. Even though he’ll move to the anchor of the primary IndyCar broadcast, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit I alongside Nick during a Lights race or two, or slip out to a corner to once again provide his contribution to the play-by-play. Simply put, the future of the IndyCar Radio Network is in good hands.
On pit lane, I’ve been the student of 28-year-old Nick Yeoman for the last two years. I believe firmly in life-long learning, so it was easy for me to take guidance and direction from a guy almost 20 years my junior. Nick has six years with the Network and is a seasoned pro. I marvel at Nick’s smooth delivery and his knowledge of the sport, and it only takes listening to one race to know that Nick has a long career ahead of him with the IMS Radio Network. He’s a natural. Nick was very patient with me during my initial IndyCar assignments and has been a great coach and mentor. Again, the ‘team’ aspect was apparent from the get-go, and once I started being including in the brunt of more than a few jokes and disparaging remarks, I knew I was ‘in’. It’s a busy world down on pit lane during a race, pounding the pavement between pit stalls and between MRTI sessions, but working with these guys makes it all worthwhile.
Of the guys I mentioned off the top of this editorial, I work the most closely with Michael Young, the trackside voice of IndyCar. I first met Michael in 2010 under a glamorous faded blue EZ-Up tent on the pit lane at St. Pete, as I called a wet morning USF2000 practice session off my iPhone, due to the fact that we did not yet have live timing set up in the ‘booth’. During those early days, my move to take over the mic for the first on-track session on either Friday or Saturday morning – normally USF2000 – was Michael’s signal to take an early break for coffee and breakfast. This was expected, and accepted. This didn’t last long, however. As the Mazda Road to Indy began developing momentum, Michael started spending more and more time with me in the booth to call the USF2000 and Pro Mazda sessions, because he started seeing the fact that he was getting to build his knowledge base on the future stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series. This was passion at work; passion for his craft and passion for the sport. I’ve learned a great deal from Michael over the years, watching him in action, whether it was in whatever tiny ‘booth’ we’re provided with, or on pit lane handling the MC duties during any race weekend. Michael is a true pro and a mentor, and he’s helped me immensely with my work on pit lane for IndyCar. I’ve gone to him after every IndyCar race I’ve worked for a critique, and he’s always provided useful input. His connection with the racers is on display during every IndyCar driver introduction and no one does it better. These days, Michael sits in on many of the USF2000 and Pro Mazda session to banter about the series and the drivers, and we’ve developed a great rapport that I really enjoy.
I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce Mark, Nick and Michael, because they bring so much to the Mazda Road to Indy with their work. I’ve also been fortunate to work with pros like Dave Furst, Jake Query and Dave Calabro, legends like Jerry Baker and Bob Jenkins, and fellow pit lane reporters Greg Rakestraw and Jim Murphy. For a kid who used to record the play-by-play of mock stock car races into his cassette recorder in the late 70s and early 80s, I am truly thankful for the opportunity. I often refer to my announcing as ‘active spectating’, because that’s really what we do. We’re rabid race fans, and we’re simply afforded the opportunity to project our thoughts during each and every session.
So, a new season is upon us, and I count myself lucky each and every day that I’ll get to roll into St. Petersburg this week, share a coffee with Michael Young in an 10×10 mobile office inside Turn 1, and eventually belt on my radio gear to slip onto pit lane for the first Indy Lights practice session of the year. I’ll be adding the IndyCar main event this time around, which is incredible. I’m living the dream, surrounded by a group of professionals who are just as passionate about the Mazda Road to Indy and the Verizon IndyCar Series as I am.
If you’re a fan of IndyCar, you owe it to yourself to tune into the IndyCar Radio Network for an IndyCar or Indy Lights practice session, qualifying or the race. The feed is available on the IndyCar app, or if you’re driving down the road, tune into Sirius 212 or XM 209. Once you do, you’ll be hooked. I know I am.