#TBT: ESPN and the Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon is interviewed by ABC pit reporter Jack Arute after winning the inaugural NASCAR Brickyard 400 in 1994. (Photo credit IMS Photo)
Jeff Gordon is interviewed by ABC pit reporter Jack Arute after winning the inaugural NASCAR Brickyard 400 in 1994. (Photo credit IMS Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Welcome to another edition of #TBT: Throwback Thursday.

ESPN is televising the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday (noon, ET). While the 21st edition of the race will be airing on ESPN for the eighth year, the ESPN/ABC family has a long history with the event.

When NASCAR first raced at IMS in 1994, it marked the first time ever that any race other than the Indianapolis 500 had been contested on the historic 2.5-mile track. While many racing purists were opposed to stock cars racing on the hallowed grounds of what is generally regarded as the world’s most famous racetrack, the inaugural event was a smashing success and is widely credited with helping propel NASCAR into more of a national sport than it had ever been.

ABC, which had televised the Indy 500 since 1965, aired the first race, won by Jeff Gordon, and ESPN and ESPN2 televised practice and qualifying sessions leading up to the event. Bob Jenkins, who had been ESPN’s lead announcer for NASCAR coverage for more than a decade, called the race with analysis by former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons. Dr. Jerry Punch, Gary Gerould and Jack Arute were pit reporters.

Now, 20 years later, Punch will again be part of the telecast team for this year’s event, reporting from the pits along with Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Vince Welch. Allen Bestwick will anchor with analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Nicole Briscoe will host the pre-race “NASCAR Countdown” program with analysts Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty.

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