INDIANAPOLIS – A Memorial Day weekend tradition that dates back to 1965 will come to an end Sunday, May 27, as ABC’s 54th telecast of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race brings a five-decade long streak to a close, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and history.
The telecast of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” begins with a pre-race show at 11 a.m. ET and then polesitter Ed Carpenter will lead the field of 33 to the green flag at 12:19 p.m. The race telecast of the premier event of the Verizon IndyCar Series is presented by Firestone and is also available on the ESPN App and the WatchABC App.
Allen Bestwick will call the race, joined in the booth for analysis by former series drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. The announcer team also will include pit reporters Jon Beekhuis, Rick DeBruhl and Dr. Jerry Punch. ESPN SportsCenter anchor Nicole Briscoe will host the Pennzoil pre-race show from the Speedway’s iconic Pagoda, and SportsCenter reporter Marty Smith will join the pre-race show and take viewers inside some of the activities going on around the track.
The relationship between ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been one of the longest-running between a network and a sporting event, with the race first airing on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1965.
“We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR and it has been our distinct honor to be partners for so many years,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming & Scheduling. “We wish them all the best in the future.”
Production Utilizing Record 110 Cameras
The Indianapolis 500 telecast, which is annually one of ESPN’s largest and most complex television productions, will utilize a record 110 cameras, covering on-track action from dozens of locations and providing unique viewpoints such as from the pace car, a crew member’s helmet, a parachutist and cameras on cars competing in the race. The camera count also will include the use of four Super So-Mo cameras placed in all four turns of the track to enhance replay coverage.
With the revised design of cars used in the IndyCar Series this year creating more opportunities for camera placements, fans will be seeing different views and angles from four onboard cameras per car carried by 14 drivers in the race. Viewers of the ABC telecast will have the option of a second screen experience through a choice of live streaming video from the onboard cameras on the ESPN App, also including team radio communications.
Drivers carrying onboard cameras will include Danica Patrick, who is competing in the final race of her career, defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato and 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden as well as former race winners Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi. Also carrying onboard cameras will be the cars of Graham Rahal, Jay Howard, Robert Wickens, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach, Will Power and Ed Jones.
Sato and Rahal will be wearing Visor Cam, a tiny camera mounted to their helmets, creating a unique view from the perspective of the driver and a true portrayal of how it feels to be inside the car. Also, Blair Julian, left front tire changer for Dixon’s pit crew, will be wearing an “over the wall” camera on his helmet, giving viewers an up-close and personal look at what a pit stop looks like from someone on the front lines.
The production will be supported by 150 technical crew members and will include 210 microphones, 16 EVS machines with 123 record and playback channels, nine mobile units and four uplinks transmitting 17 satellite paths. Some 170,000 feet of fiber cable will connect the equipment.
ESPN’s production of the race telecast will be led by senior coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld and coordinating producer Kate Jackson, with Jim Gaiero producing and Bruce Watson directing. Jackson will produce the pre-race show with Chip Dean directing.
Features in Indy 500 Coverage
The opening tease for the telecast depicts the Indy 500 as a journey that is about more than the 500 miles – it’s a tradition and a race against time and the drivers and legends that have come before.
Among the features that will air during the pre-race show or in SportsCenter’s Indianapolis 500 coverage:
- ABC’s 54 Years at the Indianapolis 500 – With narration by 14-time ABC Indy 500 anchor Paul Page, the feature shares memories of great Indianapolis 500 moments with race fans.
- Indy 500 Funny Tweets — IndyCar drivers read tweets about themselves from fans and non-fans alike and then give their honest, fun responses to them. The tweets range from positive to negative in nature but all get the drivers to laugh at themselves.
- Penske Autograph Battle – Two IndyCar champions who happen to be on the same team, Simon Pagenuaud and Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, have been having an epic game of autograph “tag” Each signs something of the others’, including their cars, their homes and even one’s mother.
- Danica Patrick E:60 – For ESPN’s E:60, Hannah Storm sat down with Danica Patrick at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where her career will come full circle as she competes in her final race. Patrick reflects on her racing career on both the NASCAR and IndyCar tracks and tells Storm what she hopes her legacy will be and what’s next for her. PREVIEW
The Indianapolis 500 on Other ESPN Platforms
SportsCenter — Editions of SportsCenter Friday–Sunday will carry reports from the Speedway, including segments with anchor Nicole Briscoe and reporter Marty Smith. Briscoe will have a SportsCenter Sunday Conversationwith the winner that will air in the evening editions of the program. Reporter Ryan McGee also will contribute to the SportsCenter coverage from Indy. Danica Patrick, making the final start of her career, appeared live onSportsCenter:AM on Tuesday morning with three-time race winner Helio Castroneves and 1998 winner (and ESPN analyst) Eddie Cheever also scheduled for SportsCenter appearances this week. SportsCenter also will air a feature with defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and ESPN senior writer Sam Alipour doing standup comedy and an ESPN E:60 interview with Patrick, who will be hosting the ESPY Awards in July, by Hannah Storm.
ESPN.com will have on-site coverage of the Indy 500 with motorsports reporter Bob Pockrass and ESPN the Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee. In addition to daily news updates and reports, the site also plans in-depth features including Danica Patrick’s new life without racing after Sunday (Friday, Pockrass); ABC’s last Indy 500 after 54 years (Friday, McGee) and Can Josef Newgarden be the new face of IndyCar? Does he want to be? (Saturday, Pockrass).
ESPN App – ABC’s telecast of the Indianapolis 500 also will be streaming live on the ESPN App. Race fans will also have the option of a second-screen experience on the ESPN App during the Indy 500 telecast with a selection of streaming video from onboard cameras, also including team radio communications. Fourteen drivers in the race will be carrying onboard cameras.
ESPN Radio – The ESPN Radio program Marty & McGee, hosted by Marty Smith and Ryan McGee, will air live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday morning, May 26, at 7 a.m. ET
ESPN+ — Race fans can watch dozens of historic Indianapolis 500 races stretching back to the 1960’s on ESPN+, the recently launched direct-to-consumer subscription sports streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment and ESPN. The collection of Indianapolis 500 films is part of an unmatched on-demand sports library on ESPN+, which also includes the entire award-winning 30 for 30 documentary film series and hundreds more hours of content. ESPN+ also offers thousands of live events and exclusive original programs, all for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year).
ESPN International — In addition to television in the United States on ABC, ESPN also distributes Verizon IndyCar Series race telecasts through a combination of ESPN networks and syndication to more than 170 countries and 100 million homes. In addition, U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world can watch live via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.
ESPN Player — Again this year, ESPN Player will bring fans across Europe (excluding the UK & France), the Middle East, Africa and now parts of Asia live and on-demand coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series season as a channel on the digital subscription service. ESPN Player is available on Mac, PC, iPad, iOS mobile and Android mobile, with high quality streaming on all devices. Information is available at ESPNPlayer.com.
ESPN The Magazine — ESPN The Magazine’s third annual “World Fame 100” issue, which goes on newsstands Friday, May 25, contains content related to the Indianapolis 500. In “Hang Time,” written by Sam Alipour, defending Verizon IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden knows how to pick a line on the track. But can he do it live on a comedy stage?
ESPN Classic started helping fans get ready for the Indy 500 with airings of classic Indy 500 races throughout the week of the race. The airings began Monday, May 21, at 6 a.m. with the 2012 race and will continue all day and night through Friday, May 25, at 5 p.m.
ABC Television – ABC’s Good Morning America Weekend will cover the Indianapolis 500 with ABC News senior meteorologist Rob Marciano reporting live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday (subject to breaking news). Check local listings. Fans can also watch the race on the WatchABC App.
Timeline – 54 Years of Indy 500 on ABC
- Charlie Brockman, an Indianapolis media personality who had called the closed-circuit broadcasts of the Indy 500 in previous years, is play-by-play announcer for the first telecast in 1965 on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
- ABC veteran Chris Schenkel calls the 1966 race telecast.
- In 1967, the race appears in color for the first time and Jim McKay works the first of his 20 Indy 500 telecasts.
- In 1971, for the first time, ABC’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 airs as a same-day, stand-alone, tape-delayed telecast in prime time rather than as part of the Wide World of Sports program.
- Also in 1971, and long before he became a popular late-night TV host, David Letterman, then employed by a local Indianapolis TV station, serves as a reporter during ABC’s Indy 500 telecast.
- In 1975, Keith Jackson handles anchor duties for ABC as Jim McKay misses the race for the only time between 1967 and his final race in 1987.
- In 1981, Jackie Stewart works his final Indy 500 as driver-analyst after working his first in 1971. He served as host for three more years.
- In 1983, Al Unser and Rick Mears carry onboard cameras, the first used in Indy 500 coverage.
- Also in 1983, Chris Economaki worked the last of his 16 races with ABC as either a pit reporter or analyst.
- In 1986, after many years of tape-delayed telecasts, the race is televised live for the first time.
- In 1987, Jim McKay, who serves as host, works his 20th and final Indianapolis 500 for ABC (18 years in play-by-play role, two years as host).
- In 1988, Paul Page becomes lead announcer, his first of 14 races in the anchor position.
- In 1989, Dr. Jerry Punch works his first race as pit reporter – the 2018 Indy 500 will be his 27th, the most race telecasts worked by an announcer in any position. Jack Arute worked 25 telecasts between 1984 and 2009.
- After retiring from driving, Scott Goodyear works his first race as driver-analyst in 2002. The 2018 telecast will be his 17th as driver-analyst, the most anyone has worked in that role. Sam Posey is next with 16.
- In 2004, several rain delays take the telecast to 8 l/2 hours, making for one of the longest single-event telecasts ever.
- ABC added a 180-degree rotating onboard camera to its coverage in 2004.
- Also in 2004, Jamie Little makes her debut as a pit reporter, the first woman ever in that role at the Indy 500.
- In 2006, ABC introduces the “side-by-side” format, allowing viewers to continue watching the action during national commercial breaks.
- In 2007, the race is televised in High Definition for the first time. Also, for the first time, two women work as pit reporters in coverage as Brienne Pedigo joins Jamie Little in the pits.
- In 2008, a 360-degree rotating onboard camera is used in the telecast, the first of its kind in American motorsports.
- Also in 2008, former Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever makes his debut with ABC as a driver-analyst, joining Scott Goodyear in the booth.
- The 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 airs on ABC in 2011, the 47th consecutive year the network has televised the event.
- In 2012, ESPN introduces a second-screen experience to the Indianapolis 500 telecast with streaming onboard cameras available for viewing on ESPN3 during the race telecast.
- In 2013, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak becomes the first woman to host ABC’s Indianapolis 500 telecast.
- In 2014, Allen Bestwick takes over the play-by-play role, becoming the 10th person in the position.
- In 2014, the race airs on ABC for the 50th consecutive year.
- In 2015, ESPN coordinating producer Kate Jackson becomes the first woman to produce part of the Indy 500 telecast.
- ABC airs the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016. With the race sold out, the local blackout is lifted for the first time and Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV-TV televises the race live.
Indianapolis 500 lap-by-lap announcers on ABC
1965 – Charlie Brockman
1966 – Chris Schenkel
1967-1974 – Jim McKay
1975 – Keith Jackson
1976-1985 – Jim McKay
1986-1987 – Jim Lampley
1988-1998 – Paul Page
1999-2001 – Bob Jenkins
2002-2004 – Paul Page
2005 – Todd Harris
2006 – 2013 – Marty Reid
2014 – 2018 — Allen Bestwick
Jim McKay – 18 years (two additional years as host)
Paul Page – 14 years
Marty Reid – 8 years
Allen Bestwick – 5 years
Bob Jenkins – 3 years
Jim Lampley – 2 years
Charlie Brockman, Todd Harris, Keith Jackson, Chris Schenkel – 1 year