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Coca-Cola 600 becomes family outing for pit road reporter

The biggest weekend in motor sports isn’t what it used to be since the advent of coronavirus.

The Indianapolis 500 and Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix, two of the world’s most iconic auto races, have been postponed and canceled, respectively, leaving only NASCAR drivers to lap the track in front of empty grandstands in North Carolina.

One of the first questions posed to Jamie Little, the longtime NASCAR pit road reporter from Las Vegas, was if she planned to stop at Waffle House on the road from her new home in the Indianapolis suburbs to Charlotte, N.C., site of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

It is normally a 90-minute flight from Indy to Charlotte. But riding in the family Toyota Sequoia to reduce the chance of being infected will take roughly nine hours, provided the line for waffles isn’t out the door.

“We may have to hit Waffle House as the kids have never been,” Little said.

With the Indy 500 having been pushed back to Aug. 23, her husband, Cody Selman, will share driving duties. This is the first time in 17 years that Cody will not be changing tires at the 500 as an IndyCar crew member. So the couple and their children, Carter and Sierra, decided to make the Coke 600 a family outing.

Little, a Green Valley High graduate and local businesswoman — she and Cody own two Jimmy John’s sandwich shops in Summerlin — will be one of two pit road reporters working the Fox broadcast. Like the teams and drivers, the virus will force her to make adjustments.

“I won’t have a pit spotter,” she said. “So the communication is gonna be on my phone, getting text messages from my producer. Instead of me telling her I’ve got a story, she’s going to tell me.”

There are dozens of safety protocols in place. She said it may be awkward wearing a face mask for the duration of the 600-mile race.

NASCAR drivers have been diligent about wearing masks since returning to the track. Denny Hamlin, winner of Wednesday night’s rain-shortened event at Darlington, S.C., sported one that made it appear he was smiling.

Little said a bigger concern is that an umbrella doesn’t became a wardrobe accessory. The 600 is long enough without weather delays, and there’s a 40-percent chance of thundershowers in the race day forecast.

But if it does rain and the kids get hungry, the closet Waffle House from Charlotte Speedway is only two miles away.

Around the horn

Kyle Busch wears a message to coronavirus pandemic responders on his back as he waits for the s ...
Kyle Busch wears a message to coronavirus pandemic responders on his back as he waits for the start of the NASCAR Xfinity series auto race Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

— NASCAR analyst Dale Jarrett said the only thing that prevented an on-track altercation between Las Vegas’ Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott from erupting into a full-scale brawl during Wednesday night’s race in front of empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway was social distancing protocol.

“Hundred percent that could have escalated in a hurry in a different time,” the three-time Daytona 500 winner and Hall of Fame driver told NBCSN after Busch bumped Elliott out of contention. “Go back to last year, that would’ve turned into something with the crews getting involved.”

— Count Las Vegas Justice Court judge Bill Jansen and wife Nora among the 350,000 of those wishing they were back home again in Indiana for the running of the Indianapolis 500.

The Judge witnessed the first of his 53 Indy races in 1949 and hasn’t missed once since 1985. He has become friends with legendary four-time winner A.J. Foyt. But he said his most memorable 500 probably was 1992, when Al Unser Jr. edged Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds — the closest finish in the race’s storied 104-year history.

— Las Vegan and former Utah Jazz public relations director Laura Herlovich, on the death of the team’s Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan: “He was quiet around me, but was funny in a way that kind of sneaked up on you.” Sloan, who coached the Jazz for 23 years, died at age 78 Friday after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

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According to Forbes magazine, if NFL games are played in empty stadiums this season, the league wil lose $5.5 billion in stadium revenue (the sum of tickets, concessions, sponsors, parking and team stores), or 38 percent of its total revenue.

But even after these projections are applied, the Dallas Cowboys ($621 stadium revenue, $950 total revenue) still would turn a tidy $329 million profit.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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