Behind The Scenes

MNF director Chip Dean shifts gears to pace pre-race Indy 500 coverage

ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch with director Chip Dean at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Coordinating Director Chip Dean started working for ESPN in 1979 and has directed a wide range of live sporting events for more than three decades. He’s captained the Monday Night Football series since 2006.

Now the self-professed stick-and-ball guy is about to embark on a new project.

This Sunday, Dean will direct the one-hour Indianapolis 500 pre-race, which airs at 11 a.m. ET on ABC. The program will include interviews with many of the 33 starting drivers in the race, as well as features highlighting drivers, race teams and the event’s storied history.

“My favorite places are the Rose Bowl and Lambeau Field, and this venue is 10 times better,” Dean admits. “It’s got the newness of the cars and the speed, but it’s an old stadium… It’s very photogenic.”

When addressing his Monday Night crew, Dean often talks about the importance of setting goals and challenging yourself. He welcomes opportunities such as this to put his words into practice.

“Doing something different and new, it’s like starting a new job,” Dean explains. “Your terminology in sports is ‘camera left, camera right’, in entertainment it’s ‘stage left, stage right’, in racing it’s ‘turn one, turn four’, so I’ve got to learn to present things differently.”

To prepare for the assignment, Dean approached his research much like an actor preparing for a role. He gathered a group of people together and asked them questions.

“It was just rapid fire: ‘What does the race mean to you? What do you see on television? What do we miss?’ And it really helped paint a picture for me,” said Dean.

This is ABC’s 48th consecutive year airing the Indy 500, which extends one of the longest-running active relationships between a sporting event and a network.

When the race telecast begins at noon, Dean will turn over the director’s chair to Bruce Watson.

“The racing people are as passionate about their sport as I am about football,” Dean notes.

“I’m impressed with their dedication and give them credit for being open to my crazy ideas. It’s been fun.”

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