A year ago, producer Jim Gaiero had to watch the Indianapolis 500 on television from a hotel room, a herniated disc in his back having knocked him out of his role in the ESPN production of ABC’s race telecast.
But after a microdiscectomy surgery last June eliminated the excruciating pain he had been in, Gaiero worked full seasons of college football and basketball and then in March was back in the chair for the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Now, he’s ready to produce his first Indianapolis 500 telecast. And it’s not just any race: It’s the 100th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” airing live on ABC Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.
“It’d be silly to say it’s just another race because that’s just not true,” said Gaiero, who also previously produced NASCAR race telecasts for ESPN. “It’s the Indianapolis 500 – it’s the biggest race in the world.
“So there is a little bit of nervousness but knowing who I’m working with from the on-air people to the production people the confidence is still pretty high considering all the races I have produced and the big races I’ve produced.”
“I would never want to downplay it by saying ‘it’s still just a race,’ but when that green flag drops, I believe that my comfort level in doing a race will lead to a successful broadcast.”
Last year, Gaiero was going to be a second producer on the Indy 500 telecast, working with Shawn Murphy. But after three weeks of walking around in the TV compound at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the race, an existing problem was made worse and by race weekend, the pain was so severe he was confined to his Indianapolis hotel room.
“Having been involved in all the lead-up into last year’s race and then having to watch it lying on my back with pillows under my knees, the pain didn’t go away but it was fun being a fan and just watching it and thinking about what everyone was going through,” he said. “Seeing how great the whole broadcast went and especially how great the last 20 laps were, I was just proud.”
Producing the telecast of the 100th Indianapolis 500 and ABC’s 52nd consecutive race isn’t lost on Gaiero.
“I 100 percent feel responsibility, not only to the people who have come before me but to any person who’s ever worked on the show and to all the fans of IndyCar racing,” he said. “I want to do it right and have a great show for them.”