Behind The Scenes

Aura of Indy 500 moves SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak, new host for ABC race telecast

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INDIANAPOLIS — SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak will host ABC’s live telecast of the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (ABC, Sunday, pre-race coverage beginning at 11 a.m. ET, green flag at 12:15 p.m.). Taking on a role most recently filled by Brent Musburger and in past years by such luminaries of sports television as Jim McKay, Bill Fleming and Chris Schenkel, Czarniak will be the first woman to host the telecast of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

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Mike Greenberg’s
Indy 500 Lap

ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” co-host Mike Greenberg did a lap around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Scott Sharp in May 2002. Sharp had raced in the American Le Mans Series, and in the Indy Racing League, where he won the pole for the Indy 500 in 2001. His experience was recorded for posterity — and for future use in poking fun at the good-natured Greenberg.

Sound clip: Greenberg at Indy


Czarniak spent this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, reporting on Indy 500 qualifying for SportsCenter and preparing for this weekend’s race telecast. While she had covered the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at the track, she’d never been there during Indy 500 time. As part of her immersion, she took a ride around the track in a two-seater Indy Car with racing legend Mario Andretti, reaching speeds close to 200 miles per hour. Front Row caught up with Czarniak to talk about her first Indy 500:

Now that you’ve seen it first hand, what are your thoughts on the aura of the Indy 500?
It honestly blew my mind. Going into it, I had had so many people that told me about what to expect and what it feels like, and this is what the event day is like. But when I was there, it became so clear, so fast that this is such a unique event. The thing that hit me off the bat was the tradition and the history that is so evident in all the people that were there and the stories I heard from fans. This is going to sound funny, but it made me thankful and I felt blessed to be able to be a part of it and I realized the magnitude of this opportunity that I have. I get chills talking about it now.

How was your ride with Mario Andretti?
It made me wish that I could drive. At first, I was terrified, and then there was a point where I realized, “All right, we’re not going to crash, and I’m just going to sit here and look around and take in this moment.” It was just the ride of a lifetime. And he was so gracious and he’s so funny. The next day the whole left side of my neck was in pain because you realize that you’re compensating, and it’s just incredible thinking about what these drivers deal with and it’s no big deal [to them] because it’s what they love.

What was your biggest takeaway from qualifying weekend?
I realized just how important it is to people who have been going year in and year out and as a broadcaster it gives me a different sense of how I want to approach it because it’s like I want to make sure that I’m really transmitting what a big deal it is to them. And to Brent, he’s such a legend, and they were big shoes to fill before, but now that I’ve been there it’s just an even greater sense of “give it its due.”

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