Bestwick honored to speak at IMS public speech in May
Racing fans visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend for the Royal Crown Armed Forces qualifying or the 105th Indianapolis 500 Race presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30 will hear a very familiar voice over the public speech: renowned motorsport game announcer Allen Bestwick.
Bestwick joined longtime IMS announcer and sports director for local TV station WTHR Dave Calabro in the public booth throughout May. Alongside Bestwick and Calabro, he misses Hall of Fame motorsport announcer Bob Jenkins, who downsized his role this year in the fight against brain cancer.
It’s a gig Bestwick was supposed to take in 2020 alongside Calabro and Jenkins, but when the Indianapolis 500 was postponed to August due to the COVID-19 pandemic and held without fans, the new job was suspended for a year.
Now Bestwick adds to his impressive professional resume, which includes the role of play-by-play TV announcer for the 2014-18 Indianapolis 500, as well as for NASCAR on NBC in the mid-2000s and NASCAR on ESPN in the early 2010. He adds his name to an impressive list of those who have lent their voices to IMS, led by legendary Tom Carnegie.
“It’s like the next item on a very long list of things that I can’t understand how it happened to me,” Bestwick said. “I’m just a little town guy from a little state and I’m in Indianapolis. I am in Daytona. I broadcast college football at Texas A&M. This is the latest in a very long series of things that are sometimes difficult to understand. “
Bestwick, 59, first fell victim to the Indianapolis 500 bug as a child, with vivid memories of Lloyd Ruby coming so close to winning the Indy 500. His father was a racer on short tracks in Connecticut, and he said he was brought up understanding that the racing capital of the world was “the auto racing mecca.”
As Bestwick got older his fascination with racing cars grew. But he was also captivated by the voices that brought the action to the track. Specifically, he remembers Jim McKay hosting ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” and bringing racing fans to the Indianapolis 500 for years.
The first time he visited IMS was in the late 1980s, while working on MRN shows for the NASCAR Xfinity series in what was then Indianapolis Raceway Park. Bestwick said the first thing the crew did when their flight landed in Indianapolis was hire a car and tour the IMS Museum. From there, Bestwick got hooked.
“It’s exciting to be here and renew my love affair with this place,” he said. “When the Brickyard 400 came into being, it was amazing. When NBC came to make the Brickyard 400, it was amazing. Then working for ABC and being invited to do the Indianapolis 500, it was mind-blowing.
While the sound reinforcement role is new to Bestwick, it is not unusual. He was part of the sound system at Daytona International Speedway, and his radio and television background brings him decades of experience.
Bestwick noted two big differences in this role from his other broadcasting jobs. First, there’s the fact that Bestwick will have a throng of people running through the racetrack from his stand on the second level of the famous Pagoda, and he feeds off those fans.
The second big difference will come on race day. Bestwick has spent years on television at the pre-race festivities at IMS and knows how simple everything has to be to bring the emotional ceremonies to millions of racing fans home. But he hasn’t experienced that on the sound side, and it’s a challenge he can’t wait to take on.
“I know how crucial it is on the other side,” he said. “ABC didn’t want to wait on Speedway, and Speedway didn’t want to wait on ABC. There are certain times of the day that just need to meet.
“Now let me absorb it from this side and see what the recipe is going on that day. I soak up like a sponge, I talk to people, I listen a lot. The work itself is just me doing what I love to do. Hope people can feel the smile on my face while I do this.
Bestwick has said so far that he has only had discussions about participating in the IMS public speech during that month of May, but his goal is to continue in the future.
“We haven’t discussed it beyond this month of May, but like anything else in life, yes, I hope so,” he said. “Hopefully next year it’s not 40% of the capacity (of the fans), and hopefully when I go for my early morning walk in the pit lane on the morning of the race, I’m going to have the same chills in this job that I had. any other time I have been on race day.