Well-known motorsports broadcaster Rick Allen will fulfill a lifelong dream when he calls his first Verizon IndyCar Series race April 2 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Allen has been tabbed by NBCSN to fill in for regular Verizon IndyCar Series chief announcer Leigh Diffey, who will be busy calling Formula One races and the U.S. Olympic rowing trials for NBCSN on the same weekends as the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (April 2), Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 17) and Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (April 24).
Allen is known for his longtime tenure of stock car broadcasting on SpeedTV and FOX Sports, before becoming the lead announcer for NBC Sports’ 20-race segment of the NASCAR Cup series in 2015. But he’s also been a longtime IndyCar fan.
“My first race that I ever traveled to was the Indianapolis 500 back when I was probably 11 years old,” Allen said. “It was incredible.
“It was one of those events that sticks with you forever and that was the first professional sporting event I ever went to.”
A native of Grand Island, Neb., Allen first attained sports notoriety when he joined the University of Nebraska track and field team as a freshman walk-on. He lettered all four years, graduating with a degree in communications, was a three-time All-American and won Big Eight decathlon titles in 1991 and 1992.
From there, Allen became the public address announcer for Cornhusker home football games before calling sprint car and modified races at Eagle (Neb.) Raceway, a third-mile dirt track. It was there that Allen was discovered by FOX Sports.
Now he’ll get to add another entry to his own motorsports broadcasting history, calling a sport that he has long followed as a fan.
“I very much enjoy INDYCAR and one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is because we’d have companion events when I was doing the Camping World Truck Series at places like Kansas and Texas (speedways) and we would watch the INDYCAR guys in practices,” Allen said. “It would absolutely amaze me watching a truck go around the track, and then watching the Indy cars go around the track.
“The comparison of the two was just mind-boggling, to see how much faster the Indy cars were going and how close they were side-by-side in the turns. It was very amazing, so I’m very excited about (calling) these races.
“The opportunity to call an Indy car race, when it was presented to me, I was ecstatic, I really wanted to do it,” Allen said. “Then they told me the races they were looking at – Phoenix, Long Beach and Barber. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, you couldn’t have picked better.’”
Allen is especially looking forward to the uniqueness of each race, starting with Phoenix, which last hosted a Verizon IndyCar Series race in 2005.
“Going back to Phoenix, it’s a very fast racetrack,” Allen said. “Long Beach has the rich history there. And Barber is such a beautiful facility. It’s just an ideal situation for me to cover a sport that I really appreciate and respect, and also to be a part of it just as a fan, to be able to experience it first-hand.”
Allen has been called a “pro’s pro” for the way he interacts with his partners in the broadcasting booth, particularly former drivers. He’s looking forward to working these three telecasts with ex-drivers Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy alongside.
“One of the biggest things I like to look at my career and the way I’ve called races is I lean on the people that know the most about it,” Allen said. “I’m very lucky to have Townsend and Paul with me, two guys that have such incredible talent and abilities not only behind the wheel, but also in the broadcast booth.
“I’m going to rely on those guys a lot. I’m going to do what I do best, and that’s call the racing action. But I’ll also take us down roads that Townsend and Paul are going to be able to explain what’s going on on the racetrack, why they’re happening the way they are, what’s the strategy that the teams are going to be employing, those types of things that they know so well.
“That’s my job, to get them engaged and involved in the broadcast,” Allen concluded. “I don’t take it lightly, I’m definitely going into it knowing this is not my forte, as far as this area of racing, but calling enough races, I know how to call them and I know how to engage the people I’m working with.”