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Formula 1, IndyCar to share racing stage on NBC Sports

New open-wheel destination

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 12:07 a.m. CDT
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel (left) and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso laugh during a press conference for the Australian Grand Prix. Formula One joins the NBC Sports Group family this season, much to the worry of IndyCar.

NBC Sports Group kicks off more than 200 programming hours of motorsports coverage with this weekend's Formula One season opener.

And that's got the IndyCar community more than a little concerned.

IndyCar drivers and former CEO Randy Bernard were openly critical of NBC Sports Network last season over ratings, promotion and marketing. Most felt the cable network did not do enough to promote the series or attract viewers to the telecasts.

Then NBC Sports Group snagged the U.S. broadcast rights for F1 away from Fox Sports Media Group, which had aired the globe-trotting, open-wheel series on cable channel Speed for 17 years.

The addition of a second open-wheel series to the NBC Sports properties left many IndyCar insiders feeling more than a little slighted, something lead race announcer Leigh Diffey heard firsthand during visits to two preseason tests.

"There was some concern from the IndyCar side, from the IndyCar family, that having (F1) on the network would take away from them," said Diffey, who will call both F1 and IndyCar races this season. He noted one network is now "the destination" for open-wheel racing.

"I think they have since learned that it's going to be a huge complement to the IndyCar family," he said. "So for people to know exactly where the destination is to go for Formula 1 and IndyCar is very convenient, and they're both going to complement each other. There's going to be quite a nice crossover."

The sentiment was echoed by Sam Flood, executive producer for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network.

Flood recently sent his F1 talent and production team to testing in Barcelona to prepare for the upcoming F1 season, and the IndyCar team spent the first part of this week in Alabama at the preseason test at Barber Motorsports Park. He believes all major open-wheel racing being covered by one network shouldn't concern anyone.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for IndyCar and for F1, both sides win because people are going to be paying attention to open-wheel," Flood said. "We'll be able to drive audience back and forth and promote to people that are passionate about this form of racing. So there couldn't be a better situation. There couldn't be a better time for this, and there couldn't be a better group to execute it."

The dividends were already paying off Thursday when Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball appeared live on NBC's "Today" show to promote the upcoming coverage.

F1, which makes its NBC Sports Group debut this week on NBC Sports Network with the Australian Grand Prix, will air four races live on NBC, 13 on NBC Sports Network, and two on CNBC.

NBC Sports Network, which has been the exclusive cable home for IndyCar since 2009, will have a season-high 13 races this year with the addition of two doubleheaders. The network will also air 12 Indy Lights races.

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