Imagine having a seat at a table featuring Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s four record-setting legends.
That’s the feeling viewers of “Pennzoil presents The Club,” a new documentary produced by Penske Entertainment, will have watching an hour-long exchange of stories and memories by four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves.
The show, which airs at 2 p.m. (ET) Saturday on NBC in advance of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ GMR Grand Prix at IMS, was filmed two months after Castroneves joined the sport’s most prestigious group of drivers with his 2021 victory in the 105th Running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
The gathering held at the Biltmore Event Center was 110 years in the making and made even more poignant today as it took place just a few months before Unser’s passing.
The inspiration for the documentary came from Rich Feinberg, Penske Entertainment’s senior vice president and executive producer, who realized that adding a four-time “500” winner for the first time in 30 years made much of the company’s existing historical video content dated.
“The story we’d been telling of the Indianapolis 500 now had a new chapter,” Feinberg said.
A week after Castroneves won, Feinberg approached IMS executives Allison Melangton and Doug Boles about gathering the four legends for a special shoot. IMS owner Roger Penske, who owned cars that Mears, Unser and Castroneves drove to Victory Lane and raced against Foyt, signed off on the project.
The drivers were brought to Indianapolis in July for taping, with one-hour individual sessions and a three-hour roundtable gathering. The group setting and the often-unscripted banter between the men became the focal point of the show. Boles moderated.
Six cameras filmed the conversations with another camera capturing behind-the-scenes content that has been used in social media posts. It was a full production, with a crew of about 45 people. Even lunch provided an opportunity for the legends to share stories of their common experiences at IMS.
“We tried very hard not to distract from the moment and let the viewers feel like they are eavesdropping on this historical conversation,” Feinberg said. “We even tried to stay out of our own way as content creators, using split screens that allow the men to continue to be seen in their conversations while showing the moments (of racing action) they’re talking about.
“It really turned out well. For me, it was a bucket-list project … a privileged opportunity.”
The show is complemented by off-site interviews with Penske, Mario Andretti, Scott Dixon and Tony Stewart.
Kevin Buchholz, who wrote the script, said there were many memorable moments in the gathering, led by the fact Unser, who was battling cancer, was the first to arrive on the set.
“Al was so happy and really thankful to be there,” Buchholz said. “He said there were a lot of things he hadn’t talked about much in recent years, and that was really cool to hear.
“And then there was Helio, who was so excited because it was like he was joining the kids’ table. Seeing his reactions to A.J. and Al speaking was one of the highlights of it all.”
An invitation-only premiere will be held Thursday night in Indianapolis.