If you had reason to doubt how serious NBC would take the Indianapolis 500 in its first year airing the event, consider this news as assurance they will: Per Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star, NBC has tabbed one of its best and most well-known broadcasters, Mike Tirico, to host coverage of the event.
According to a source, IndyCar learned Tirico would serve as host during the series’ annual partner summit a few days before this May’s Indianapolis 500. Tirico was in attendance with Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports & NBCSN, as well as other NBC executives.
An NBC spokesperson declined to confirm Tirico’s appointment as 500 host, only saying, “We will be announcing our commentators for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 much closer to the start of the event.”
Though Tirico has limited experience as a racing broadcaster, his presence on Indy 500 coverage seems like good news for IndyCar fans. In March, NBC acquired annual rights to the race (in addition to the rest of the IndyCar slate), ending is 54-year run on ABC. With ratings for the event slipping, it seemed that NBC would have to go above and beyond if it was to maximize its IndyCar investment. And although Tirico won’t draw tens of thousands of viewers by himself, his appointment suggests that NBC will take IndyCar seriously, devoting its absolute best talent to the sport’s premier event.
Plus, Tirico’s presence on the Indy 500 broadcast practically assures a smooth broadcast. No one in sports media is quite as solid and dependable as Tirico, whether he’s working NFL games, the Masters or the Olympics. Sure he’s probably not an expert in IndyCar, but he will almost certainly show up to the Indy 500 confident and well-prepared, as usual.
In hosting the Indy 500, Tirico will join an illustrious group of broadcasters to fill that role — one that includes Jim McKay, Paul Page, Al Michaels, Brent Musberger and Lindsay Czarniak. In the event’s final year on ABC, it was hosted by ESPN’s Nicole Briscoe.