ABC will utilize 92 cameras, including 36 on 12 of the race cars, in its coverage of the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 25.
The backbone of the massive production, however, is the storytelling – as it has been for the network’s 50 years televising “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – that conveys the magnitude, drama, history and pageantry of the most attended single-day sporting event on the planet.
The relationship between ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the longest-running between a network and a sporting event.
“The stewardship of ABC’s storied history at the Indianapolis 500 is something we take very seriously,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer. “The heritage of this event, and the pure excitement and spectacle of it, are what we look forward to bringing to our viewers every year.”
Allen Bestwick (center in photo at left) enters as the 10th chief announcer of the telecast that begins at 11 a.m. (ET), and he’ll be joined by former Indy car drivers Eddie Cheever Jr. and Scott Goodyear as analysts and a battalion of reporters. ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Lindsay Czarniak will host the telecast from the Speedway’s iconic Pagoda.
“When I was young, my dad had race cars at a racetrack in Seekonk, Mass. Didn’t get much racing on television then, except for the Indianapolis 500,” Bestwick said. “That was appointment television for us. As a young boy, watching this race every year sparked my fascination with the broadcasting business, in particular as I continued to follow, watching Jim McKay, the role he played, the variety of sports he did, the excellence with which he did them, and how much you felt like even though you never met him, he was a friend through the television.
“So, for me, all these years later to get a chance to sit in that seat on this occasion, it’s not just bucket list, it’s beyond bucket list. It’s a little overwhelming to think about how fortunate I am and how honored I am to be part of this.”
Cheever won the 1998 Indianapolis 500 and Goodyear was the runner-up in 1992 and ’97. Both see the level of competition – it’s the fastest field by average speed (229.698 mph) and the closest by time (2.1509 seconds) in history. Ed Carpenter’s four-lap average speed of 231.067 mph to earn the Verizon P1 Award was the fastest since 2003.
Last year, a race-record 68 lead changes among 14 drivers packed the 200 laps.
"It's going to be a very exciting race again,” Cheever said. “There’s too many stories to sit down and go through them one by one, so many different possibilities, that I really think it’s going to go down as one of the most exciting races we’ve ever had at Indy. And when you consider how we ended last lap, the result would have probably changed if the race would have gone another 400 yards, and I expect we’ll see the same thing on Sunday.”
Added Goodyear: “Somebody asked me the other day (to) pick a winner. I don’t think I can. I think there’s an honest 10, 12 people that can win this event. If you were betting in Vegas, it would be hard to put your money on somebody.”
In addition to the ABC telecast, ESPN distributes Verizon IndyCar Series race telecasts through a combination of ESPN networks and syndication to more than 198 countries and 101 million homes. Also, 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.
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 ESPN3, ESPN’s multi-screen live sports network. ESPN3 will carry the feeds exclusively through WatchESPN and on www.indycar.com.