More is better for INDYCAR 2016 television programming

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ABC’s enhanced coverage of the epic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and increased programming on NBCSN, including 10 hours of live practice telecasts, highlight the Verizon IndyCar Series television programming schedule for 2016.

Total on-air programming from INDYCAR’s network partners is more than 110 hours, up from 2015. It includes live coverage of all 16 races on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, qualifying shows for all NBCSN events and Indianapolis 500 time trials on ABC, practice sessions from seven NBCSN events and recap shows on NBCSN for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race weekends.

For the full live television race schedule for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series, click here.

Television viewership of Verizon IndyCar Series events has increased 38 percent over the past two years. The 2016 programming schedule has been developed to continue that trend.

“Viewership of INDYCAR programming has surged the past two years and that is directly related to the incredible on-track competition, the quality of programming produced by our partners at ABC and NBCSN, and the careful selection of the best race time slots available,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“In compiling the 2016 television schedule, we have continued to build off strong lead-in programming and optimal time slots to extend that viewership momentum. We believe this, coupled with the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, returns to iconic Indy car tracks at Phoenix and Road America, and an exciting new event on the streets of Boston will propel the excitement and viewership further forward.”

Verizon IndyCar Series coverage kicks off with ABC’s live broadcast of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 12:30 p.m. ET March 13. ABC will air four additional races in the first half of the season: the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14; the highly anticipated 100th Indianapolis 500 on May 29; and both races of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans on June 4-5. All ABC broadcasts are produced by ESPN and will also stream live on WatchESPN.

This marks the 52nd straight year ABC is broadcasting the Indianapolis 500, among the longest-running active relationships between a network and sporting event in television. In addition, ABC will air the dramatic final two hours of Indianapolis 500 qualifying on both May 21 and 22. The first day of qualifying is used to set the provisional field of 33 cars. The second day features the pulse-pounding Fast Nine Shootout to determine the pole sitter for the 100th Running of the Indy 500. ESPN3 will provide extended qualifying coverage on May 21-22 and a second-screen option of onboard camera shots for the May 29 race.

The ABC coverage includes for the 12th consecutive season its popular “Side-by-Side” feature during national commercial breaks utilizing a split screen to show the advertisement and the continuing racing action simultaneously. The feature is enhanced for 2016 with a larger screen showing on-track action. The leaderboard moves to the top of the screen and can rotate through the field instead of displaying only the leaders.

Booth talent for ABC broadcasts remains the same for the third straight year, with Allen Bestwick the anchor and former Indy car drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever serving as analysts. The 2016 season marks Goodyear’s 15th in the ABC booth and the ninth for Cheever. Pit reporters will be Jon Beekhuis, Rick DeBruhl and Dr. Jerry Punch. Lindsay Czarniak will serve as host for the Indy 500.

“We’re proud to be part of a sport with not only historic traditions but also a very exciting future,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, league sports programming. “We have been pointing to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 for a long time and especially look forward to that event and our 52nd consecutive year at the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’”

NBCSN’s Verizon IndyCar Series coverage begins with the series’ return to Phoenix International Raceway for the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 1-2. NBCSN will telecast the opening practice session and qualifying live on April 1, along with the 250-lap race at the 1.022-mile oval on April 2 in primetime.

NBCSN continues with qualifying and race coverage from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16-17; practice, qualifying and the race April 22-24 from the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park; and 4.5 hours of live coverage from Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, including the final practice before the Indianapolis 500, the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race and TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition.

The final eight events of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, beginning with the Firestone 600 from Texas Motor Speedway on June 10-11, air on NBCSN or CNBC, NBCUniversal’s widely distributed business network. The two CNBC race telecasts – the Honda Indy Toronto on July 17 and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 31 – will be followed by same-day re-telecasts on NBCSN in strategic time slots. The NBCSN slate also includes the Road America Grand Prix from the famous Wisconsin road circuit June 24-26 and the season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sept. 16-18.

Leigh Diffey will serve as the lead play-by-play voice for NBCSN’s coverage, joined in the booth by analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee, Robin Miller and Marty Snider will report from the pits. In addition, Rick Allen, NBC Sports’ lead NASCAR play-by-play voice, joins NBCSN’s Verizon IndyCar Series coverage for select races.

“Coming off the most-watched INDYCAR season ever on NBCSN, we are excited to produce even more hours of thrilling open-wheel racing coverage this year,” said Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “INDYCAR continues to be one of the cornerstone properties that makes NBC Sports the home of motorsports.”

NBSCN will also telecast five “IndyCar Chronicles” 30-minute specials, the INDYCAR Championship Celebration and hour-long recaps of all Indy Lights race weekends.

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