ABC puts its pedal to the metal for coverage of Indianapolis 500


May 28, 1999|By Milton Kent

With all the changes ABC is making for this year's Indianapolis 500 telecast, you would have thought that the network was planning for something momentous.

Indeed, with ABC concluding a multi-year contract, the bidding for the 500 figured to be furious, with more than one suitor attempting to wrest the rights away from the Alphabet network, now in its 35th year of Indy coverage.

"We started to prepare for this year's 500 in January and we prepared as though this might be the last one we would ever do," said race producer Bob Goodrich. "We said, `Win or lose in the negotiations, we'll still do the best show we've ever done.' "

ABC won, re-upping last week with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for five more years of coverage, but the changes came anyway.

Viewers will immediately notice differences, especially when Al Michaels, the most recognizable face and voice of ABC Sports, introduces the telecast. Michaels, who will also host next weekend's Belmont Stakes, joins a trend of high-profile TV figures, like CBS' Greg Gumbel and NBC's Brian Williams, who have signed up to anchor race telecasts.

Once the race starts, Michaels will hand off to a new voice, Bob Jenkins, the lead commentator for ESPN's NASCAR telecasts. Jenkins, who has been the voice of the 500 on the radio for the past 20 years, takes over for Paul Page, who shifts to ABC's CART telecasts.

Additionally, the network will place two in-car cameras in each of 12 entries, including that of last year's winner, Eddie Cheever, and in the car of Arie Luyendyk, a two-time Indy winner who is making his final run here before retiring from the circuit at the end of the season.

Luyendyk has also agreed to be one of two drivers who will talk with the ABC race team right before the pace lap and right after the race ends.

Coverage of the race begins at 11 a.m. on Channel 2.

Caught in the Web

Sportsline USA has snagged a big Web partner, with an agreement this week to produce and host Major League Baseball's official site.

Sportsline, which also has the PGA Tour and NFL Europe sites, had produced official All-Star Game and World Series sites for baseball last year.

But the new deal will entitle the company to produce the everyday site that will include live game audio broadcasts, streaming audio highlights and related features.

The site, which can be reached at http: //, will be re-launched in June.

Around the dial

The men's lacrosse season comes to an end this weekend, and ESPN and ESPN2 will have coverage of the Division I final four from College Park. The "Deuce" will air both semifinals tomorrow, starting at noon, with the championship game airing Monday at 10: 55 a.m. on ESPN.

A little farther around the Capital Beltway, CBS (Channel 13) has third- and final-round coverage of the Kemper Open tomorrow (4 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.). WTEM (980 AM) is going to air play-by-play coverage of the tournament on the radio. We wish the listeners luck.

Look for NBC (Channel 11) to focus on the women's draw at the French Open, now that Pete Sampras has been bounced from the field. After all, the ladies' field, even before Sampras' second- round loss yesterday, was more interesting. The network will present taped coverage both tomorrow and Sunday at 2 p.m. with Dick Enberg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Bud Collins.

NBC will carry NBA playoff games tomorrow, Sunday and Monday at 5: 30 p.m. each day, with "NBA Showtime" preceding each telecast at 5. Tomorrow's pre-game show will include a feature on Portland forward Brian Grant, whose face kept getting in the way of Karl Malone's elbows during the Blazers-Jazz series.

Finally, CBS will have live coverage of the Prefontaine Classic track meet from Oregon on Sunday (Channel 13, 1 p.m.), with Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson and gold hopeful Marion Jones expected to compete. And ABC (Channel 2) will carry the latest of ESPN's "SportsCentury" theme shows, an examination of the great dynasties of the past 100 years, right after the Indy 500 on Sunday at 3: 30 p.m. with Dick Schaap as host.

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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