Former IndyCar driver Scott Goodyear has been the expert analyst on ESPN’s coverage of the IndyCar Series since 2002. Goodyear made 12 starts in the Indy 500 and in 1992 was involved in the closest-ever Indianapolis 500 finish when he chased Al Unser Jr. to the line and finished second by just .043 second. He also finished second in 1997 to Arie Luyendyk.
Goodyear will be part of ABC's broadcast team for this Sunday's race. It's the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500; coverage starts at 11 a.m., the green flag is at 12:12 p.m. We caught up with Goodyear this week.
Trading Paint: What is the atmosphere like at Indy?
Scott Goodyear: I think the atmosphere is electrifying. I have been fortunate in my career to have driven in huge events in Europe and the United States. The track is different. You never go to a track with long straights like this. The road goes by you so fast on the straightaways. On race day, it's amazing. It's like walking in New York City. You look up at the massive buildings. At Indy, you look up and it's a wall of people. That's when you realize how special the place is.
TP: What's it like driving in the Indy 500?
SG: The concentration level is so high. After driving other races, you are fatigued mentally and physically. At Indy, it's about 75 percent mental. You can't make a mistake. You have to hit the same six or eight inch mark to make your turns. Perfection is important. You have to be a machine to click off those laps.
TP: Do people still ask you about your second place finish in 1992 to Al Unser Jr.? It's one of the closest finishes ever.
SG: That's certainly a highlight. I came up through road courses. My first Indy was my third oval race. The 1992 Indy was the 12th or 13th oval of my life. Al Jr. had come up racing ovals. He had a lot more experience. So that race was a highlight and huge confidence builder.
TP: For people who don't understand what it takes to drive a race car, explain how difficult it is.
SG: You are just a couple of inches to the ground. You are in a small cockpit. It's like a fighter jet. You have to make all the right moves because your life and the life of the other drivers depend on it. It reaches 140 degrees inside the cockpit. You lose anywhere from five to seven pounds over the course of the race. There is no powering steering. No power brakes. If you make a small mistake, the consequences could be life or death.
TP: We have Watkins Glen here in New York, what do you like about The Glen?
SG: A lot of the drivers love that place. They love the small town, they love the history of the place. You can feel all that history in the fabric of the town. You look at a lot of the super speedways and they are all the same. I'm not knocking them, they are great places, but The Glen is different. A lot of the guys go into the town and trace the old track. They go to the original start-finish line.
TP: You've also raced at Le Mans, what is that like?
SG: Le Mans is still about the make of the car, Audi, Porsche, it's all about the cars. When the fans arrive to watch Le Mans, they are more interested in their favorite car. If you go to a race here, there are souvenir trailers for the drivers. It's Dale Jr. or Danica Patrick merchandise. Over there, the souvenir trailers are for the cars. They wear all their stuff that has the car name on it. They are there to be seen. It's a lot like the Kentucky Derby. People are dressed up. I've been fortunate enough to stand on that big podium and the fans walk down pit lane after the race and you spray them with champagne.
TP: Can Danica Patrick be successful racing in both IndyCar and NASCAR?
SG: I think it's certainly helping her brand. But the difference in driving the cars, to be honest, it's like someone blindfolded you, put you on a plane and dropped you off in another country. It's as different as can be. I know she is saying otherwise. But if you are doing both, you are not going to be sitting on the pole and be damn good and winning races like Jimmie Johnson and Will Power if you are racing in both. They are just too different. When you drive any car fast, it becomes an extension of your body. A stock car weighs about 3,400 pounds and IndyCar weighs about 1,550 pounds.
TP: Who do like in this year's Indy 500?
SG: I picked Ryan Briscoe and than he stuffed it into the wall. So he's in a backup car. I still think he's strong and I still believe him to be a contender. Anything can happen. You can be leading with 20 laps to go and still not win the thing.