ABC, Indianapolis 500 To Wave Green Flag for 50th Straight Year

Only a few hours separate workers throughout the country from their three-day weekends, and, as they count down the minutes until their barbecues, beach trips, and parades, so too is ABC eagerly anticipating another Memorial Day Weekend tradition: the Indianapolis 500.

This Sunday marks the 98th consecutive running of the Indianapolis 500. And, continuing a streak that began in 1965, ABC will televise The Greatest Spectacle in Racing for the 50th consecutive year, beginning with a one-hour prerace show at 11 a.m. ET and the green flag at 12:12 p.m.

“Our team looks at it like it’s a privilege to produce the Indy 500. It always has been, it always will be,” says Rich Feinberg, VP, motorsports production, ESPN, who will oversee the broadcast. “It’s a cherished assignment that everybody embraces and our goal is quite simple: to uphold the tradition of excellence in coverage that’s been established by our ABC colleagues over the past 49 years.”

Since 1965, the Indianapolis 500 has evolved from a black-and-white highlights package on ABC’s Wide World of Sports into a huge 92-camera production (a slight increase over last year’s 84 cameras) operating out of NEP’s SS21 mobile unit. Included in this year’s complement are a helicopter cam, cameras mounted on the grass and in the walls, and a host of robotic and handheld cameras.

In addition, ABC’s coverage will feature 36 onboard cameras — three per car in 12 of the 33 cars competing — provided by Broadcast Sports Inc. (BSI). ABC returns BSI’s dual-path technology, which made its IndyCar debut two years ago and allows two onboard cameras installed in the same car to transmit feeds at the same time.

“The unique thing about this race, and racing in general, is [that] the size of the playing field is just gigantic. It just takes more [cameras to cover],” says Feinberg. “And then, we’re always watching multiple things, so a lot of our camera systems allow us to focus on multiple battles on the track to make sure that we can document as much of the action as we can for the fans.

“It is a very large production,  one of the largest that we do every year,” he continues. “[And it’s a] tremendous credit to our technical and engineering staff to put together this system. Ultimately, I think our fans are the benefactors of it.”

Production of this years’ race telecast will be overseen by Feinberg, produced by Shawn Murphy, and directed by Bruce Watson. Terry Lingner will produce the prerace show, with Chip Dean directing.

In front of the camera, Allen Bestwick will make his Indianapolis 500 debut, becoming the 10th person to call the race on ABC. Joining him in the broadcast booth will be analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak will host the telecast from the Speedway’s iconic Pagoda while Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, and Vince Welch serve as pit reporters.

IndyCar fans looking to complement the first-screen experience will be able to stream video from the onboard cameras on ESPN3, which will carry the feeds exclusively through WatchESPN and on Indycar.com.

“We want to make sure our viewers feel like they’re not only enjoying the race but thirsting to be there,” says Feinberg. “We’ll do that, I’m sure, as we have done over the past 49 years, and I really look forward to being part of it as I do every year.”