In the days of Rich Feinberg’s youth in New Jersey, the Indianapolis 500 was part of his life every Memorial Day weekend. Now, as ESPN vice president, production, motorsports, it’s a big part of his career.
Feinberg is overseeing ESPN’s production of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, which is airing on ABC for the 47th consecutive year. The storied race is celebrating its 100th anniversary and a team of more than 100 people is busily preparing for four hours of live TV that starts at 11 a.m. ET.
For Feinberg, the Indy 500 is personal, and the connection goes back many years. “When I was growing up, I used to watch the Indy 500 on TV after hanging out on the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day weekend and I was always fascinated by the cars and the speed,” he said.
As he was starting to work his way up the TV production career ladder, Feinberg came to his first Indianapolis 500 in 1986 as a production runner for ABC. His job was to support the pit reporters, which included getting them water. It was his first time at an open wheel race, and his career took a turn as motorsports became an integral part of it. He joined ESPN in 1995 and, among many other projects, has worked on the company’s motorsports coverage ever since.
Now, 25 years after he worked his first Indy 500, the focus is on the Centennial event.
“For our team, producing the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 is a privilege and an honor,” he said. “I don’t think any of us look on it as an assignment. Obviously the relationship between Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ABC goes back 47 years and many of us have been involved for many years, but when it takes on the level of being the 100th anniversary celebration, on Memorial Day weekend, with all the pageantry that’s already here, and now you added to 100 years of story and the ties along the lines with our history, it’s just a great opportunity. It’ll only happen once, and we’re all really excited about it.
“For me personally, it’s even bigger than that,” he said. “You always hear that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway changes race driver’s lives. I never raced here, but it definitely changed my life.”