SBD/Issue 172/Sports Media

Hit The Bricks: Indy 500 Overnight Rating Down 17.6% From '08

ABC Earns 4.2 Overnight Rating For
Castroneves' Indy 500 Win
The 93rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, which featured IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves winning his third race at the Brickyard, earned a 4.2 overnight Nielsen rating on ABC from 1:00-5:00pm ET. The rating is down 17.6% from a 5.1 overnight for the '08 race, the first following the IRL-Champ Car merger. This was ABC/ESPN's first IndyCar broadcast of the season; the first three races of the season were on Versus (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the rating is the lowest since the race "got live start-to-finish TV coverage in 1986." He writes, "You have to wonder: What's left, theoretically, that could resurrect the Indianapolis 500's drawing power?" Danica Patrick, who finished third in the race, "was supposed to bring star power if she could also be a contender on the track" (USA TODAY, 5/27).

ALPHABET SOUP: In St. Petersberg, Tom Jones wrote ABC's coverage "was solid, especially in the first half-hour of the race and of the controversial wreck in the first lap between Mario Moraes and Marco Andretti." The net "showed plenty of hustle by tracking down both drivers for emotion-filled interviews." However, while ABC's Jack Arute "does a good job" as a pit reporter, Jones wondered why he was "putting a Firestone cap on the head of Helio Castroneves and handing him the bottle of milk after Castroneves won?" Jones: "Completely inappropriate" (, 5/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote ABC milked Castroneves' "drama for all it was worth, focusing on his weepy, hand-holding family in the race's closing laps." ABC's Marty Reid alluded to Castroneves' recent acquittal of tax evasion charges, saying during the final laps of the race, "Five weeks ago, Helio Castroneves was staring at jail. An orange suit -- not a race suit" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote in an online chat, "ABC gets a C. I never thought I'd say this: Bring back Versus" (, 5/25). Meanwhile,'s live blog of the race wrote of Patrick, "She'll take third and the MASSIVE airtime given to her by ABC. Might need to add a 'D' to that network to account for the excessive coverage [of Patrick]" (, 5/24).

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY: In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich wrote the best part of the Indy 500 was that viewers "didn't need (announcers) to explain the day's most dramatic stories," as it was what the "cameras, reporters and radio transmissions captured that told the best stories." ABC captured Moraes "stridently professing his innocence" in the wreck with Andretti, but later was "shown in tears at trackside." Meanwhile, when Dario Franchitti "pulled away from the pit with the fuel hose still attached after a misunderstanding, he was overheard in a surprisingly calm voice telling his crew, 'We need to be clearer on the hand signals'" (TORONTO STAR, 5/25). Meanwhile, Zelkovich wrote coverage of motorsports sometimes "provides way too much information." Zelkovich: "When the pit reporters are talking about wing adjustments, downforce, fuel position 3 vs. fuel position 4 and a whole lot of other gearhead stuff, millions of eyes are glazing over" (, 5/25).

Castroneves Climbs Fence After Win Despite
Official Trying To Keep Him In Car
JUMPING THE FENCE: The INDY STAR's Cavin noted an on-track official tried to force Castroneves to drive to Victory Lane immediately after he won instead of allowing him to climb the fence, per his tradition after winning a race. Cavin: "ABC was running out of air time" (, 5/25). Castroneves said, "I was trying to get out of the car, and he was pushing me back. I'm like, 'Wait a minute.' I can hear the crowd going crazy. I just want to celebrate with the fans. ... Finally, he realized I really wanted to get out of the car and go climb the fence. Thank God they allowed me to do that" ("Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain," Speed, 5/24). 

RUNNING TWO WIDE: In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis noted ABC utilized side-by-side coverage during commercial breaks in the broadcast, a strategy NASCAR does not use on a weekly basis. Willis wrote of NASCAR: "They tinkered with a similar idea a couple of years ago but it didn't score points with the advertisers, I guess. Imagine that" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 5/26).

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