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ABC celebrates 50 years at Indianapolis

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What began as highlights in black-and-white on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1965 has evolved into ESPN’s massive production of the modern telecast for ABC, one of the largest and most complex that ESPN does each year. The production will utilize 92 cameras to televise the premier event of the Verizon IndyCar Series, including three onboard cameras per car in 12 of the 33 cars competing in the race.

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The relationship between ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the longest-running between a network and a sporting event. Weekend coverage of the Masters has aired on CBS since 1956, and ABC has aired the Little League World Series since 1963.

“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.”

During the past 49 telecasts of the race, some of the most familiar names in sports television history have been part of ABC’s coverage, led by the legendary Jim McKay, who called the race for 18 years and served as telecast host for two others. Chris Schenkel, Bill Flemming, Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Jim Lampley and Brent Musburger have all served in various roles on the telecast.

The “Dean of Motorsports Journalists,” Chris Economaki, originated the role of pit reporter and was part of many Indianapolis 500 telecasts on ABC, while former Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward originated the driver-analyst position that was later filled by Jackie Stewart, Sam Posey, Bobby Unser, Rusty Wallace, Tom Sneva, Arie Luyendyk and others. Paul Page anchored the telecast 14 times and before his late night career, David Letterman was a pit reporter on the 1971 telecast.

Allen Bestwick will become the 10th person to call the race on ABC when he makes his debut this year.

“One of the things that sparked my fascination with broadcasting was that appointment viewing of the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 with Jim McKay behind the microphone,” said Bestwick. “It’s one of those things that attracted me and inspired me to get into the business and to think that I’m going to have the opportunity to sit in that chair – THAT chair – is mind-blowing.”

Joining Bestwick in the broadcast booth will be analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever, both former Indy 500 competitors.

"It has been a part of my life for a long time," stated Goodyear. "Having some reasonable success there, and now having an opportunity as I have done for many years to be in the booth with ABC is truly a privilege. When we get together for meetings, there's a lot of passion and pride to being involved in this race."

ESPN SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak will host the telecast from the Speedway’s iconic Pagoda while pit reporters will be Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch.

ABC’s Indianapolis 500 telecast will be produced under the oversight of ESPN vice president, motorsports, production Rich Feinberg.

"Through our coverage, we want to make sure our viewers feel like they're not only enjoying the race but thirsting to be there. I look forward to being a part of it as I do every year," Feinberg added.

Shawn Murphy will produce the race telecast and Bruce Watson will direct, while Terry Lingner will produce the pre-race show with Chip Dean directing.

Pre-race airs at 11 a.m. ET and the green flag will wave at 12:12 p.m. 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 Indycar.com. ESPN3 is accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and streamed on televisions through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku. The network is currently available to more than 92 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers, smartphones and tablets connected to on-campus educational and on-base military broadband and Wi-Fi networks.

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