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U.S. 500 GETS AIR TIME ON ESPN, GOES UP AGAINST INDY 500
Published January 19, 1996
ESPN will carry live coverage of the first running of the U.S. 500 at the Michigan International Speedway on May 26, the same day ABC covers the Indianapolis 500. ESPN will provide 3 1/2 hours of live coverage beginning at 2:00pm ET. The Indy 500 will start at 12:00pm ET, meaning the races in part will go head to head (IndyCar). CART teams and drivers who make up the IndyCar Series have chosen to run a 500-mile race at Michigan on the dame day of the Indy 500 because of a dispute with Tony George, President of the Indianapolis track and founder of the Indy Racing League (THE DAILY). REACTION: ABC Sports spokesperson Mark Mandel said their plans won't change in the face of competition from the U.S. 500 and ESPN. Mandel said ABC has "one race [Indy 500], ESPN has the other." He said ABC was not surprised by the announcement, adding only, "The Indy 500 has got the tradition and is on a network and will have a much better rating. There is no question about that." IRL spokesperson Bob Walters said that "obviously" Cap Cities/ABC, (owners of ESPN) "weren't that interested in covering the race since they didn't make the announcement earlier." Walters said that Cap Cities/ABC might have felt "compelled" to show the race "since they couldn't sell it" to any other network. Walters didn't wish to criticize the deal, adding "we are trying to focus on what we are doing. The Indy 500 is a tremendous promotional avenue." There will be close to 80 hours of Indy 500 programming in the month of May on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. ABC will broadcast all five IRL events. All IndyCar teams and drivers are still invited to compete in the Indy 500. ESPN was unavailable for comment (THE DAILY). ALL IN THE FAMILY: While both ESPN and ABC are owned by Cap Cities-ABC, itself soon to be owned by Disney, the rights to all CART races are held by OCC, Ohlmeyer Communications. OCC is, in turn, owned by ESPN, which buys the time for CART races to get on air. INDY CAR RACING MAGAZINE: "When efforts to place the race on a broadcast network failed, ESPN was the logical choice" (ICR, 1/18).