As part of the celebration of the historic 100th running of one of the world's most important and iconic events, ESPN's signature news and information program, "SportsCenter," will have a major and significantly expanded presence at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the week of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.
The epic 100th edition of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" will get the green flag live on ABC on May 29, and ESPN will lead up to its sister network's race telecast with four live "SportsCenter on the Road" programs originating from IMS, as well as reports airing within other editions of the program. This will be "SportsCenter on the Road's" first visit to IMS since ESPN launched the initiative in 2015 and will mark the first live "SportsCenter" programming from the Indy 500 in more than a decade.
In addition to previewing the premier race of the Verizon IndyCar Series with drivers, team owners and others, "SportsCenter" programs also will pay tribute to the long history of the Indianapolis 500 with guest appearances by past champions and special features and elements.
"We're thrilled 'SportsCenter' will be on hand to bring millions of viewers across the globe an up-close look at the monumental 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The buildup to the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing' will make for compelling television, showcasing the world-class drivers, intense competition and innovative technology that propel the Verizon IndyCar Series forward."
"I can't think of a better place to be than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as we approach race day for the 100th Running of the Indy 500," said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. "Our fans are going to love hosting the 'SportsCenter' team on site and today's good news will truly make the month of May even more exciting and unforgettable for everyone."
The "SportsCenter" presence at the Indianapolis 500 will include two live one-hour programs on the morning of the race, with hosts Matt Barrie and Sara Walsh on a set in the IMS Pagoda Plaza area. The first program will air from 8-9 a.m. ET on ESPN, while the second will air on ESPN from 10 a.m. until ABC's telecast begins at 11 a.m. Barrie and Walsh will have live reports from the Speedway during the 9-10 a.m. hour while "SportsCenter" airs on ESPN2.
On May 28, the day before the race, Barrie and Walsh will host a three-hour edition of "SportsCenter on the Road" from IMS beginning at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN. The 6 p.m. ET May 27 edition of "SportsCenter," hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, will also air from IMS on ESPN.
In addition to the four live programs, other editions of "SportsCenter" will carry live reports, including segments with Czarniak in the 6 p.m. ET shows on May 25-26. After the race, the winner will have a live interview with "SportsCenter," and Czarniak will have a "SportsCenter Sunday Conversation" with the winner that will air in the evening editions of the program.
Czarniak also will host the Indianapolis 500 pre-race show on ABC at 11 a.m. ET May 29. The "SportsCenter" programs from IMS also will include contributions from ESPN reporters Marty Smith and Ryan McGee as well as other members of the ABC race coverage team. ABC is broadcasting the Indianapolis 500 for the 52nd consecutive year in 2016, one of the longest-running relationships between a major sporting event and a network.
ESPN expanded its "SportsCenter on the Road" initiative last year as a way of taking the program out of the studio to be closer to events and fans. In the past year, the program has originated from major events including the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series, NFL draft, college football playoff, Masters golf tournament, NFL and college football games and more.
"When a sporting event as iconic as the Indianapolis 500 reaches its 100th version, it's a testament to its appeal, stature and longevity," said Michael Fountain, ESPN senior coordinating producer, "SportsCenter." "If there is a major event, 'SportsCenter' will be there, and we look forward to bringing the excitement and pageantry of Indy to our viewers."
ABC's first Verizon IndyCar Series race broadcast of 2016, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13, saw a 52 percent ratings increase and 56 percent viewership from a year ago. The final rating was a 0.97 (up from 0.64 in 2015) with 1.391 million viewers tuned in (up from 891,000). It marked the highest viewership for a Verizon IndyCar Series season opener since 2011 and the third-highest non-Indianapolis 500 broadcast since 2012.
ABC will also broadcast the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis from the IMS road course on May 14, Indianapolis 500 qualifying May 21-22 and both races of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on June 4-5.