The 100th anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500 will continue a Memorial Day weekend TV tradition that has been part of America since 1965 when the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” airs on ABC for the 47th consecutive year on Sunday, May 29. ESPN on ABC’s coverage from Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins at 11 a.m. ET with The Indianapolis 500 – A Centennial Celebration presented by Honda. The race telecast is presented by GoDaddy.com and begins at noon, with the race’s green flag at 12:12 p.m.
What began as highlights on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1965 moved to a same-day, prime time program in 1971 and finally became a live telecast (except in Indianapolis) in 1986.
“It is an honor for us to televise the Indianapolis 500 every year,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer. “It’s with great pride that we carry on the stewardship of ABC’s history with this marquee event in the world of sports and look forward to bringing it to our viewers around the world.”
ESPN’s production will use 64 cameras to televise the premier race of the IZOD IndyCar Series, including a 360-degree rotating onboard camera mounted behind the driver on multiple cars. Unique views will be provided by Batcam, a high definition camera running on a cable over pit road and the frontstretch that can move at more than 80 mph. All 33 cars will carry GPS boxes for the Sportvision RaceFX system to provide telemetry and pointers to help identify the cars for viewers. ESPN will use a radio replay system that can record, play back and edit radios from any of the 33 drivers and viewers will learn more about the technical aspects of the sport with segments from the Emmy-winning ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage.
Marty Reid will call the race with analysis by former IZOD IndyCar Series star Scott Goodyear and 1998 Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever. Reporting from the pits will be Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch while Brent Musburger will host. ESPN’s Indianapolis 500 coverage will be produced under the oversight of ESPN vice president, motorsports, Rich Feinberg. James Shiftan will produce the race telecast and Bruce Watson will direct.
The one-hour pre-race show will include interviews with many of the 33 starting drivers. Some of the special features that are scheduled to air in either pre-race or in SportsCenter’s Indy 500 coverage include:
- Viewers will take a journey through time of the last 100 years in American and Indianapolis 500 history. The feature will tell the story of the history of America and the Indianapolis 500 in chronological order, from 1911 to now. It will be driven by quotes from the American Presidents who served during the period. The quotes will either be spoken by the corresponding president or written graphically on the screen. The previous presidents have elicited countless words of wisdom that translate into American and Indianapolis 500 history.
- Dario Franchitti is a two-time Indy 500 winner and a three-time IZOD IndyCar champion. In a juxtaposition of the chaos of his racing profession, viewers find out he is just a guy from a small town in Scotland close to Edinburgh. In a piece that is part all-access and part bio, Franchitti takes ESPN’s Chris Connelly around to some special locations of his youth in Scotland (kart track where he learned to drive, boyhood home, lunch with his best friends) to gain a deeper understand and appreciation for the defending Indy 500 champion. His wife, actress Ashley Judd, discusses their relationship in an exclusive interview.
- Alex Tagliani and his car owner, Sam Schmidt, speak at the famed “Yard of Bricks” at Indianapolis about the individual journeys that brought them together to be on the coveted pole for the 100th anniversary Indy 500..
- An ensemble cast of race car drivers explain why lifting off the throttle at the Indy 500 isn’t just about letting off the gas. They explain how they determine risk vs. reward. When facing great danger is the only way to put your face on the Borg Warner Trophy, they “Don’t’ Lift”.
- Simona De Silvestro discusses the odds she had to overcome in qualifying for the Centennial Indianapolis 500 after a frightening practice crash left her with second degree burns on one of her hands.
- Collin Allen is 11 years old. And in 2005, his father died while serving in Iraq. Collin will write a letter describing his own father and explaining what Memorial Day means to him. At the end of the journey viewers will see photos of other children whose parents have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
- On the last lap of last year’s Indianapolis 500, driver Mike Conway was involved in a terrifying crash. He was badly injured, but he survived and is back behind the wheel this season because of safety features that have been added to both cars and tracks over the years. ESPN Sport Science will analyze what happens to both car and driver in a crash like Conway’s, and examine how modifications and innovations continue to improve the safety of the sport.
- In his own words, Helio Castroneves describes what it’s like chasing a milestone and record that only few have been able to attain. Just three drivers have been crowned winner of the Indianapolis 500 four times: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Castroneves talks about the improbability of ever winning the prestigious race and now with three victories under his belt what it’s like to be on the verge of joining such an elite fraternity of legendary drivers.
- Charlie Kimball is the first licensed IndyCar driver with diabetes to race in competitive open wheel racing. ESPN will explore the dynamics of driving more than 230 mile per hour while keeping tabs on the drivers’ blood sugar, including the unique technology that his doctors and team monitor during the race.
- Danica Patrick appears from the outside to be a complex woman. Viewers have seen her in so many different lights over the years. She was a rookie darling in the lead at Indy in 2005. She is a sex symbol as the GoDaddy Girl. She is not afraid of the drivers in NASCAR. But one thing that stays consistent is that she is a race car driver who wants to win. In an ode to a well-known commercial with Charlize Theron, a glamorized Patrick unmasks herself and, in the process, reveals her many sides.
- Great drivers and other figures from Indy 500 history reveal their special Indy 500 moment, including Foyt, Mears, Sullivan, the Unsers, Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart and more.
- Hockey has the Stanley Cup. There’s the Green Jacket at Augusta, the Kentucky Derby’s Blanket of Roses. And then there’s the Bottle of Milk that goes to the winner of the Indianapolis 500. To honor the history of this classic Indy 500 tradition, viewers will see the actual milk delivery process in a fun and informational way. From the cow farms in Indiana, to the police escorted milk men carrying the milk jugs into the track.
The opening segment will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 with motion picture actor William Fichtner walking a lap around the track to remember the greatest moments and fantastic drivers throughout history. As Fichtner, who appeared in Black Hawk Down, Armageddon, Crash and The Dark Knight, walks the track, these great moments come alive around him. In the last scene, he is joined by three of the race’s biggest stars: Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.
After the race, ABC will televise IZOD presents Hot Wheels Fearless at the 500 at 3:30 p.m. Inside the Speedway, a stunt driver from Team Hot Wheels will try to set a world record for a distance jump in a four-wheel vehicle. The current record is 302 feet.
Other ESPN Platforms
In addition to the live telecast on ABC, the Indianapolis 500 will receive ESPN multiplatform coverage on the following outlets:
ESPN International’s network and joint ventures’ reach is over 207 million homes in 143 countries and territories. Add to that syndication (31 countries and 31.4 million homes), ABC’s U.S. reach of 115,900,000 and television distribution exceeds 354.3 million homes in 176 countries worldwide. In addition, U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world will watch live via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network, bringing the total to 213 countries and territories around the world.
ESPN.com will provide surround coverage of the Indy 500 with senior motorsports writers Ed Hinton and Terry Blount, IndyCar correspondent John Oreovicz, pit reporter Jamie Little and motorsports editors K. Lee Davis and Joe Breeze for the 100th anniversary running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The staff has been busy in May running down the 100-year history of the race as well as naming the Field of the Century, the 33 drivers (and five additional pioneers) that best exemplify the spirit of the 500-mile race. ESPN.com staff will cap off the coverage on race day with Racing Live! Indianapolis 500 on ESPN.com as the writers, editors and fans interact on every aspect of the race. In addition, anchor Marty Reid and analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever will provide exclusive digital coverage leading up to and after the race.
On television, extensive reports, interviews and highlights will air on SportsCenter and ESPNEWS.
SportsCenter has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 throughout the month of May with a series of Indianapolis 500 Centennial Moments. The video segments look back on some of the greatest moments and biggest heroes over the history of the race. There is a new segment each day and each runs a minimum of three times a day, included in the daytime, prime time and West Coast prime time programs. The moments also are available for viewing on ESPN.com.
ESPN Classic will present a week-long tribute in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. All week long beginning Monday, May 23, ESPN Classic will air classic Indy 500 races and SportsCentury programming. On the actual 100th anniversary, May 30, ESPN Classic will present a 22-hour marathon anchored by a re-air of the 2011 race.
ESPN Radio’s Saturday RaceDay starts its engines at 6 a.m. with an hour of news, previews and analysis. ESPN Radio also provides auto racing fans the comprehensive Sunday RaceDay (6-7 a.m. Sundays), which covers the auto racing world.
ESPN Deportes, ESPN’s Spanish-language television, radio and Internet in the U.S., will cover the Indy 500 via SportsCenter, the network’s flagship news and information program. The network’s motorsports expert Andres Agulla and former professional driver Alex Pombo, will provide special reports and interviews with the racers directly from Indianapolis. In addition, ESPNdeportes.com will provide comprehensive coverage with previews, qualifying, photo galleries, videos and live chats with Agulla and Pombo.
ESPN the Magazine’s “Busted” issue, which went on sale May 20, contains an in-depth feature with driver Marco Andretti. Andretti is an outsize name in racing. But Marco Andretti is beginning to like the way it fits. Award-winning ESPN the Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee profiles the third-generation driving star. Also included in the issue is a fun image of “The Five Widest and Tightest Gaps Between Indy 500 Winner and Runner-Up.”