With what could have been a major disappointment for many Verizon IndyCar Series fans at home and in seats at Texas Motor Speedway, organizers and drivers proactively responded to a delay for the Firestone 600 brought on by rain. In the hour leading up to midnight on the Eastern coast, INDYCAR finally pulled the plug on the Saturday night showdown at Texas Motor Speedway. The race was postponed and rescheduled for 2:00 PM Eastern Sunday June 12, but before the final call was made, many drivers entered the grandstands and began signing autographs for the fans.
Heavy rains throughout the day on Saturday saturated the ground well enough to dampen the track beyond manual drying. Resulting in what’s known as “weepers,” the hydrostatic pressure of the water-logged ground was significant enough to push water up through the track surface. TMS is no stranger to the phenomenon with history as recent as last November in which rain and a weeping track affected the NASCAR race weekend.
With the race originally scheduled at 8:50 PM Eastern, there was quite a delay before the race was called at 11:30. As typical with delays in sporting events the television and radio broadcasts of NBC Sports Network and INDYCAR Radio filled time with a variety of fun banter and historic filler pieces. The magic didn’t start until the later hours of the broadcast.
The first great move was to hand the company phone, presumably powered by Verizon Wireless, to the Ed Carpenter Racing teammates of Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden to broadcast on Facebook Live. Newgarden’s comical personality meshed well with Carpenter’s laid-back demeanor during the wait. While the duo were having fun trying to figure out the new video platform on the social network, the banter continued with the NBCSN pit reporter crew of Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Katie Hargitt, and Robin Miller.
The pit reporters kept the show going with some commentary on the season and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. There were, however, a few awkward moments and hiccups on the presenter side of things with Brian Till, Townsend Bell, and Paul Tracy, but the fun was still there, emphasizing probably the most important part of any sportscast. Impromptu interviews and jabs were had on air with James Hinchcliffe and Newgarden which led to the suggestion of drivers signing autographs up in the grandstands on the front stretch.
Shortly after their appearance on live national television, Hinchcliffe and Newgarden worked their way up to to the main grandstands at the start finish/line to start greeting fans, thanking them to come out, taking photos, and signing autographs. It wasn’t long before the likes of Carlos Munoz, reining Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Conor Daly, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, and Ed Carpenter joined in on the display of appreciation. Seats in the grandstands began to empty, but not for a dash to the parking lot – everyone wanted to meet their favorite drivers, who had personally come out to meet them.
Displays like this have been seen in recent events such as the Formula 1 event at COTA last year as shared in Katie’s Racing Line, but the personalities and outright friendliness shown by North America’s top-tier open wheel drivers are rivaled by no one. It wasn’t hard to see how much these athletes appreciated their fans patience and undying love of the sport. At one point, Carpenter could be seen signing a Team Penske hat. Though the particular fan had apologized for the ironic circumstance, Carpenter showed that he was very happy to interact and sign the autograph anyways.
It’s uncertain as to what the postponing will do to the TV ratings, but one thing is for sure: INDYCAR made a huge investment in their fan base tonight. Carlos Munoz will lead the field to green as the pack will struggle to keep their tires under them. The Firestone 600 will air live on NBCSN on Sunday, June 12 at 2:15 PM Eastern.