IRL, Indy 500: Indianapolis 500, Pep Boys Indy Racing League Announce Five-Year Broadcast Partnership with ABC, ESPN
21 May 1999INDIANAPOLIS - ABC Sports, broadcast home of the Indianapolis 500 for nearly 35 years, has given the green light to continued Indy Racing coverage, agreeing to a long-term partnership with the Pep Boys Indy Racing League to carry all of the series' races live on ABC Sports, ESPN or ESPN2.
Announced today during practice for the upcoming Indianapolis 500, the multimillion-dollar broadcast partnership is the largest in Pep Boys Indy Racing League history. The five-year deal gives ABC Sports broadcast rights for the Indianapolis 500 and five other races, while the remainder of races will be carried on ESPN or ESPN2.
"Our partnership with ABC Sports over the last 34 years is one of the great traditions of the Indianapolis 500," said Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the Indy Racing League. "We are pleased to expand this relationship with ABC Sports and ESPN to include the entire Pep Boys Indy Racing League season. After much discussion, we believe that ABC Sports, ESPN and ESPN2 is the best platform to build Indy Racing, including the Indianapolis 500 and the Pep Boys Indy Racing League."
ABC Sports cited the legendary Indianapolis 500 as just one of the many reasons for renewing the contract, pointing to the increased competitiveness of the series, expanded sponsor support and growing fan base.
"Continuing the long relationship between the Indianapolis 500 and ABC Sports was one of my highest priorities when I took this job, and I am proud to say today that we have accomplished that goal," said Howard Katz, president of ABC Sports. "We are thrilled to retain the sport's crown jewel event while obtaining exclusivity for the IRL series. Our relationship with the Speedway is one of the longest in sports television, and we look forward to building upon this tradition into the new millennium."
Said Dick Glover, ESPN executive vice president, programming: "Indy Racing rounds out the best motorsports lineup on television. ESPN's combination of races, qualifying and racing news is the top source for race fans to follow their favorite sport. ABC and ESPN provide the best cross-promotional platform in sports and a great opportunity for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League to build its following."
The agreement begins with ABC Sports' broadcast of the 2000 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. It calls for ABC Sports to continue televising the Indianapolis 500, with ESPN televising qualifying and practice sessions. ABC Sports and ESPN/ESPN2 will televise the entire Pep Boys Indy Racing League series, and historical programs will be shown on ESPN Classic. The commentator team for ABC Sports and ESPN will be announced later this year.
"ABC Sports, ESPN and ESPN2 have assured us of their enthusiastic partnership in promoting Indy Racing, and we look forward to a bright future together," George said. "Special credit needs to be given to Howard Katz, who made this agreement his personal priority. Without Howard's enthusiasm and commitment, we would not be here today making this announcement."
ABC Sports has televised the Indianapolis 500, the premier event of the 11-race Pep Boys Indy Racing League, since 1965 and live since 1986. ABC Sports has televised Pep Boys Indy Racing League races since that series debuted in 1996. ESPN has televised Indianapolis 500 qualifying since 1987, and ESPN2 joined the coverage in 1996. ESPN and ESPN2 combine to present approximately 1,300 hours of original motorsports programming annually.
The Pep Boys Indy Racing League, now in its fourth season, is America's premier open-wheel auto racing series. It was founded in 1994 by George to promote the American tradition of open-wheel, oval-track racing and preserve the affordability and accessibility of the sport to all drivers.
Made famous by the Indianapolis 500 and legendary drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford, the series now features top drivers Arie Luyendyk, Eddie Cheever Jr., Scott Goodyear, Greg Ray, Robby Unser and others competing in 11 racing events throughout the year. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League features open-wheel, open-cockpit race cars with normally aspirated V8 engines that race at more than 220 mph.