Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., both part of NBC's announcing team for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. (Photo: IndyStar photo illustration)
INDIANAPOLIS — You might not expect Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to have the fond memories of Indianapolis. After all, neither was able to win a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in their otherwise decorated careers.
Both are returning to the city this weekend as part of NBC's broadcast team for the Indianapolis 500. Patrick will be working as a studio analyst for NBC's race day coverage alongside Mike Tirico, while Earnhardt will serve as a roving reporter Sunday.
Sunday's Indy 500 will be Earnhardt's first. But, it will not be his first time at the track. In his first race, a young Earnhardt found himself in a position every son dreams of: beating his dad.
"Dad was testing and I was testing and I thought my car was great," Earnhardt said. "We had great speed and Dad's car was all right, average."
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Earnhardt Jr. ended up matching Earnhardt Sr.'s qualifying lap time. His excitement was then squashed by his father, who had previously driven his son's black No. 3 car and wasn't convinced it would withstand the test.
"I'm happy, I get out and I'm like, 'Gosh, all right. I'm just as good as Dad,'" Earnhardt Jr. said. "And he comes up and goes, 'Your car ain't going to make it.'"
Sure enough, Earnhardt Jr. got off to a fast start, hanging around the top five during the race. But with around 23 laps to go, his father's prediction came to pass.
Danica Patrick's favorite memories of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are not in the car but on foot.
Tyler Kraft, IndyStar
"I got tight and started backing up," Earnhardt said. "One guy goes by, then another and another, and there goes Dad. Drives right around me like it's nothing."
Patrick's memories don't fall in any particular race, but still center on the track. Patrick would stay at the track for the entirety of the race and before cars began speeding across the asphalt, she would test a different type of speed on the speedway.
"I was a big runner, so I would just go out every morning and run around the track," Patrick said. "I'd run on the infield, run on the outside and run all over. I felt very integrated with the track on a lot of levels."
The former drivers will create new memories this weekend as they transition to the broadcasting side of the race. The Indy 500 is scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. Sunday.
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