WFBM-TV advertisement from The Indianapolis Star, April 29, 1962.

The Indianapolis 500 has been broadcast on television in the United States dating back to 1949. Local television station WFBM-TV (now WRTV-6) carried the “500” live for the first time in 1949 and again in 1950. Then from 1964 to 1970, MCA broadcast the race live on closed-circuit television, a telecast which was available in theaters and other venues across the country. The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) first covered the “500” with highlights on its popular anthology series “Wide World of Sports” from 1965 to 1970. From 1971 to 1985, the race was aired on same-day tape-delay in primetime on ABC. Since 1986, the race has been has aired live in “flag-to-flag” format. In 2019, after more than five decades on ABC, the race moved to the NBC network.

In addition to Indy 500 race coverage, time trials, practice, and other ancillary events (including the 500 Festival Parade and the 500 Victory Banquet) have also been aired on television over the years. Much like the race itself, the Indy 500 on television has a colorful and nostalgic history. While some film and newsreel footage of the race exists as far back as the first “500” in 1911, the earliest telecasts are generally presumed to be “lost”.

This five-part article will dive deep into the history of the Indianapolis 500 on television.


“Local coverage” era (1949-1963)

Magnavox television advertisement (ca. 1949)

The first era of television coverage of the Indianapolis 500 commenced in 1949. While radio coverage of “500” dates back to as early as 1922, the first television coverage did not occur until after World War II. With television still in its infancy, the city of Indianapolis did not have a local TV station until WFBM signed on in 1949. WFBM-TV carried the race live for two years (1949-1950).

After 1950, live coverage of the race itself was no longer permitted. Nevertheless, WFBM continued to increase their coverage of the race, shifting their focus instead to time trials, practice, and various ancillary events. National television coverage of the race was still spotty, consisting primarily of news reports rather than sports play-by-play. Other TV stations in the greater Indianapolis area also began covering the race during the 1950s, including WTTV (Bloomington) which largely simulcast WFBM’s coverage. WTHI, WLW-i, and WISH all jumped on board, carrying their own highlight packages and track reports, however, WFBM-TV was by far the the leader in local race coverage. Tom Carnegie, best-known as the public address announcer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was also the sports director at WFBM, and anchored many of their broadcasts from the Speedway. By the early 1960s, WFBM boasted over 100 hours of race coverage during the month of May between television and radio.

During this era, national coverage of the race was provided on radio. The Mutual Broadcasting System carried the race to a national audience from 1939 through 1950. In 1951, WIBC (1070-AM) carried the race, and offered its signal to Mutual affiliates. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network was founded in 1952, and with hall of fame anchor Sid Collins, quickly grew to one of the largest radio syndication arrangements in the world. The IMS Radio Network carried the race live (flag-to-flag coverage beginning in 1953), and by 1958 covered time trials with four qualifying wrap-up shows.

By the 1960s, the national television networks began expressing interest in covering the race activities. Since coverage of the race itself was still embargoed by Speedway management, time trials and “race previews” would become the focus of attention. As the local TV channels were constantly expanding their coverage of the race, ABC provided the first dedicated national coverage when they aired time trials (taped) in 1961. It was the beginning of a 58-year partnership between ABC and the Indianapolis 500.


Indianapolis 500 on Television — Five-Part Series
Part 1
1949‒1963
Local Era
Part 2
1964‒1970
MCA/WWOS
Part 3
1971‒1985
Tape Delay
Part 4
1986‒2018
ABC Live Era
Part 5
2019-Present
NBC Era

1949

One of the WFBM cameras set up along the mainstretch (photo courtesy of WFBM/WRTV archives)

The first ever live television coverage of the Indianapolis 500 occurred in 1949. WFBM-TV (now known as WRTV-6), a brand new television station in Indianapolis, signed on for the first time on race morning Monday May 30, 1949. On April 18 of that year, a deal was struck to air the race, partially as an effort to boost television sales in the area. At 10:00 a.m. local time, a documentary titled The Crucible of Speed was the first program to air. At 10:30 a.m. local time, race coverage began with thirty minutes of pre-race coverage, followed by the start of the race at 11 a.m. Including pre-race and post-race, the broadcast totaled approximately five and a half hours.

After airing a test pattern on May 24, and a forty-minute test broadcast from the track on Saturday, the first television station in Indianapolis formally debuted with the entire 500 miles shown flag-to-flag, utilizing three cameras with telephoto lenses. Two cameras were set up on the Paddock grandstand along the frontstretch, while the third camera was on top of Grandstand E, offering a view of turn one. At the time, approximately 3,000 households in the greater Indianapolis area owned a television set, with possibly 8,000 more sets picking up the signal in Louisville and Cincinnati. L.S. Ayers & Company, a local department store, was the first sponsor. That store, along with about twenty other local retailers, set up television sets in their storefront windows or in their showrooms for shoppers to watch the broadcast.

With better-than-expected reception reported all around the state, large crowds gathered downtown at the stores, at “watch parties” at various clubs, theaters, and taverns. In addition, families that owned television sets reported many visitors coming over to watch the race, and generous estimates of up to 200,000 viewers saw at least part of the historic broadcast.

A crew of two announcers, three roving reporters/interviewers, two spotters, two producers, and at least a dozen engineers and technicians descended upon the Speedway with a bus filled with equipment, and over 2,000 feet of cable. Dick Pittenger and Earl Townsend handled the announcing duties, with Paul Roberts and Mrs. Irving Fauvre conducting interviews. Gilbert Forbes served as a roving color reporter. By most measures, the broadcast was considered a rousing success. However, various growing pains were experienced. At times, the cameras were blocked, there was no view of the backstrech, turn three, or most of turn four, and the pits were only visible from a distance.

With much attention locally on the first television broadcast, the “500” was still covered nationally (and locally) on the radio. The Mutual Broadcasting System aired their familiar live radio coverage with anchor Bill Slater. However, only the television broadcast was covered flag-to-flag. Mutual carried live coverage at the start, the finish, and periodic updates throughout the race. Bill Holland, after finishing second the previous two years, won the race for car owner Lou Moore.

Feature: Channel 6 is the first station to broadcast the Indy 500

1949 Indianapolis 500 — WFBM-TV
Announcers Interviewers Roving Reporter
Dick Pittenger
Earl Townsend
Paul Roberts
Irving Fauvre
Gilbert Forbes

1950

One of the cameras along the mainstretch. (Photo courtesy of WFBM/WRTV archives)

WFBM returned to broadcast the 1950 Indianapolis 500, this time covering both the race and time trials. Several improvements were made to the telecast, including new zoom lenses, which allowed the cameras to follow the cars around nearly the entire course. A twenty-person crew set up the operations early on race morning (the same crew had covered a baseball game the night before the race).

Dick Pittenger and Earl Townsend returned to serve as the announcers, but Paul Roberts, on the crew in 1949, was absent due to his death a couple weeks prior to the race. The roving reporters for the day (if there were any) are unconfirmed. Once again, watch parties were popular throughout the day. In just one year’s time, the number of television households in central Indiana grew to between 37,500-50,000. A huge audience was predicted.

Similar to the previous year, the telecast signed on at 10:30 a.m. local time, and covered the entire race flag-to-flag. Mutual covered the race (for the final time) on the radio, again using their familiar live coverage at the start, finish, and periodic updates throughout. It marked the second year in a row the race was covered live on both television and radio. The 1950 race, won by Johnnie Parsons, was shortened due to rain. The continuing success of the broadcast prompted WFBM to begin planning for a national network syndication in 1951.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 13 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 14 – 2:55 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 20 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 21 – 2:55 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 27 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 28 – 2:55 p.m. (1 hour)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Tuesday May 30 – 10:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.


1951

Shortly after the 1950 race, Speedway president Wilbur Shaw expressed concern about gate attendance and was contemplating banning live television coverage of the “500”. In addition, WFBM-TV noted the increasing complexity and cost of covering the race. This despite sponsorship offers coming in of $1 million per year, for five years, to carry the race. The previous two years (1949-1950), the Speedway received no rights fees to air the race.

In January 1951, Shaw announced that television would no longer be allowed to carry the “500”. Shaw cited the potential of television affecting attendance, but also opined that black and white television sets did not do the event justice. He was quoted as saying “We feel that the color and spirit which go with the race is lost”.

During negotiations in the spring, the radio network Mutual raised their advertising rates, and lost their sponsor (Perfect Circle Piston Rings). Ultimately, Mutual dropped their radio coverage of the “500”. When the month of May began, it appeared there may be neither radio nor television coverage of the 1951 Indianapolis 500 (on race day). Midway through the month, 1070 WIBC-AM arranged a deal to cover the race. They used a similar format that Mutual had used (live coverage of the start, the finish, and periodic updates during the race). WIBC offered their broadcast signal to other Mutual affiliates.

Though they were not allowed to cover the race, WFBM-TV did arrange to cover time trials in 1951. Dick Pittenger and Earl Townsend returned as announcers, and the production utilized two cameras.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 12 – 2:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 13 – 3:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 19 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 20 – 2:55 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 26 – 2:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 27 – 3:00 p.m. (1 hour)


1952

After covering time trials only in 1951, it appears that WFBM-TV (channel 6) did not return with any television coverage for 1952. Exclusive live coverage of the race activities was carried only on the radio, by the newly-created Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.


1953

For 1953, television coverage of time trials returned. WFBM-TV (channel 6), along with WTTV (channel 10) out of Bloomington, Indiana, both covered time trials. It appears that the same telecast was aired simultaneously on both channels. Tom Carnegie, the sports director for WFBM (and public address announcer at the Speedway), served as the announcer. No race day coverage was allowed.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV & WTTV)
Saturday May 16 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 17 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 23 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 24 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)


1954

WFBM-TV covered time trials with Tom Carnegie as the announcer and Bob Rhodes as color commentator. A crew of 25 technicians, engineers, cameramen, directors, and producers, worked the four broadcasts. A total of three cameras were utilized, one in the Pagoda, on atop the Paddock grandstand, and one for commercials.

Occasionally, live updates were also given, breaking into regularly scheduled programming. On the third day of time trials, coverage was broken into two half-hour segments in order to switch over to live coverage of the Preakness Stakes. No race day coverage was allowed. On race day, Carnegie assumed his regular role on the Speedway public address system.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 15 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 16 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 22 – 4:00 p.m. (30 minutes) and 5:00 p.m. (30 minutes)
Sunday May 23 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)


1955

Once again, local television coverage was restricted to time trials only. WFBM-TV carried all four days of time trials, while WTTV (by this time, transitioned over to channel 4 on the dial) was also on hand to do occasional trackside reports.

Tom Carnegie and Bob Rhodes served as the announcers On race day, Carnegie assumed his regular role on the Speedway public address system, while Rhodes debuted on the IMS Radio Network as a pit/garage reporter.

On race day (Monday May 30), the NBC-TV Camel News Caravan was at the track to report on the race. A cameraman was perched on a boom crane near the entrance to turn one. It is not entirely clear, however, when the race report was aired. It may have been shown on the evening of May 30, the following day (Tuesday May 31), or perhaps at a later date.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 14 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 15 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 21 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 22 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)


1956

NBC News Caravan capturing action [Image courtesy of Indiana Memories]
All four days of time trials were carried on television by WFBM-TV. WTTV (channel 4) and WTHI (channel 10) also picked up the telecasts. Tom Carnegie, Paul Lennon, and Bob Rhodes served as the announcers.

On race day (Wednesday May 30), national television coverage of the race occurred for the second year in a row. The NBC-TV News Caravan presented taped highlight of the race, in color, at 6:45 p.m. eastern, about three hours after the conclusion of the event. John Cameron Swayze served as the narrator for the 15-minute broadcast. The highlights on NBC were not blacked out in the Indianapolis area, and were shown on WFBM. The production utilized the “Strato-Tower”, a cherry-picker boom crane to capture a bird’s eye view of the race course.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 19 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 20 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 26 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 27 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)


1957

In 1957, WFBM-TV carried local coverage of time trials, and for the first time, aired same-day highlights of the race. Tom Carnegie, Bob Rhodes, and Paul Lennon were on the broadcasts. WTTV once again simulcast the four time trials telecasts.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 18 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 19 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 25 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 26 – 4:00 p.m. (1 hour)

On race day, both WFBM-TV and WTTV aired taped highlights of the race. Tom Carnegie narrated the half-hour program that aired on WFBM. A separate 15-minute package of highlights aired on WTTV.

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Thursday May 30 – 10:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WTTV)
Thursday May 30 – 10:30 p.m. (15 minutes)


1958

A total of six and a half hours of local television coverage was planned by WFBM-TV for 1958. Though the race could still not be televised live, WFBM continued to carry all four days of time trials and post-race highlights. In addition, a race preview show dubbed the “Speedway Press Party” (hosted by Bob Rhodes) aired the night before the race, and for the first time, the Victory Banquet the night after the race was televised. With WTTV continuing to simulcast most of WFBM’s coverage, a new station, WLW-i channel 13 (now WTHR), also began their own coverage of the race.

On race morning, NBC’s Today show broadcast from the track with Dave Garroway hosting. Various segments were taped during the week leading up the race, including interviews, and a tour of the track. There was no coverage of the race itself, however.

Both WFBM and WLW-i aired race highlights the night of the race. Charlie Brockman hosted WLW-i’s coverage. WLW-i also covered the annual “500” Mechanics Banquet on May 22 and a time trials wrap-up show on May 25.

Time Trials (WFBM-TV & WTTV)
Saturday May 17 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 18 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 24 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 25 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)

Race Preview Show (WFBM-TV)
Thursday May 29 – 10:15 p.m. (45 minutes)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Friday May 30 – 8:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WLW-i)
Friday May 30 – 9:00 p.m. (30 minutes)

Victory Banquet (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 31 – 9:00 p.m. (1 hour)


1959

WFBM-TV channel 6 celebrated their tenth year of television coverage at the “500” with substantially expanded coverage. Although the race itself could still not be televised, WFBM stepped up their month of May telecasts, including a new daily (Monday through Friday) wrap up show titled “Trackside” with Freddie Agabashian and Dave Lingle. All four days of time trials were televised, along with the Old Timers B-B-Q, a night before the race preview show, post-race highlights, and the Victory Banquet.

The time trials coverage team included Tom Carnegie, Freddie Agabashian, and Dave Lingle. Agabashian and Lingle covered the BBQ, and “Speedway Press Party” (the race preview show) featured an expanded panel of experts and reporters.

As in previous years, WTTV channel 4 simulcast the qualifying broadcasts from WFBM. On the night before the race, WTTV showed highlights of the 1958 race.

Trackside (WFBM-TV)
Monday May 11 through Friday May 15 – 5:45 p.m. (15 minutes)
Monday May 18 through Friday May 22 – 5:45 p.m. (15 minutes)
Monday May 25 through Thursday May 28 – 5:45 p.m. (15 minutes)

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 16 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 17 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 23 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 24 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (15 minutes)

Race Preview Show (WFBM-TV)
Friday May 29 – 10:00 p.m. (1 hour)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 30 – 9:00 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WTTV)
Friday May 30 – 9:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WLW-i)
Friday May 30 – 10:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Victory Banquet (WFBM-TV)
Sunday May 31 – 9:00 p.m. (1 hour)

Once again, WLW-i (channel 13) had their own coverage, consisting of highlights of time trials, previews, and various features. They also aired historical race highlight films of previous years in the days leading up to the race. Charlie Brockman narrated WLWi’s race Wrap-Up show on Saturday night May 30.


1960

For 1960, WFBM-TV boasted 114 hours of race coverage between television and radio. Daily trackside reports, coverage of time trials, plus numerous activities leading up to the race were televised in color. The inaugural 500 Festival golf tournament, plus the 500 Festival Parade were televised for the first time, as was the 500 Victory Banquet (for the third straight year). Tom Carnegie, Freddie Agabashian, and Dave Lingle handled the on-air duties. WTTV simulcast some of WFBM’s coverage. During the afternoons, live look-ins (“Qualifying Flashes”) of time trials were aired between other programs.

WLW-i (channel 13) also covered action from the track with Charlie Brockman reporting. WISH (channel 8) joined for the first time with a race wrap-up show.

During the month, off-the-track activities including the Mechanics’ Dinner, the Old Timers’ BBQ, Press Party, Governor’s Ball, 500 Festival Parade, a race preview show, a race wrap-up show, and the Victory Banquet were all televised.

Trackside (WFBM-TV)
May 9 through May 30 – 6:45 p.m. (15 minutes)

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 14 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 15 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Saturday May 21 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 22 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Monday May 30 – 8:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WLW-i)
Friday May 30 – 10:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WISH)
Friday May 30 – 10:30 p.m. (1 hour)

Victory Banquet (WFBM-TV)
Tuesday May 31 – 9:00 p.m. (1 hour)

On May 15, WTTV’s qualifying coverage was delayed until 7 p.m. due to their coverage of the Little 500 bicycle race.


1961

A new era in broadcasting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway began in 1961. The start of a 58-year partnership with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) commenced when ABC’s Wide World of Sports arrived to cover time trials for the 1961 Indianapolis 500. At the time, television coverage of the race itself was still not permitted. On April 29, 1961, just a few weeks prior, the popular anthology series Wide World of Sports debuted. In its fifth week (Saturday May 27), ABC televised highlights of time trials to a national audience, including interviews and various features.

In the Indianapolis area, WFBM continued their extensive local coverage of practice, time trials, and various ancillary events. Tom Carnegie, Freddie Agabashian, Bernie Herman, and Jim McIntyre covered the action for WFBM-TV and WFBM radio. Off the track events that were covered included the golf tournament, Old Timers’ B-B-Q, Mechanic’s Dinner, Governor’s Ball, the “500” Festival Parade, and Victory Banquet. On the night before the race (May 29), for the first time, the annual Drivers Meeting was also shown (tape delayed).

WTTV (channel 4) carried WFBM’s time trials coverage – either simulcast or tape-delayed, while WISH (channel 8) aired their own highlights later each afternoon, and race previews. Charlie Brockman anchored WLWi’s race wrap-up show on May 30, but WLWi did not carry any local coverage of time trials. However, since WLW-i was an ABC affiliate at the time, they did air ABC’s Wide World of Sports time trials episode.

Trackside (WFBM-TV)
May 8 through May 26 – 6:30p.m. (15 minutes)

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 13 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:10 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Sunday May 14 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:10 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Saturday May 20 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour)
Sunday May 21 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:10 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Tuesday May 30 – 8:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WTTV)
Tuesday May 30 – 7:30 p.m. (1 hour)

Race Day (WLW-i)
Tuesday May 30 – 10:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

Race Day (WISH)
Tuesday May 30 – 11:15 p.m. (1 hour)

Time Trials (ABC’s Wide World of Sports)
Saturday May 27 – 5:00 p.m. (2 hours)

ABC’s Wide World of Sports coverage of time trials was anchored by Charlie Brockman (of WLW-i). The two hour telecast featured highlights of qualifying, interviews with top drivers, and a special tribute to Tony Bettenhausen who was killed in a practice crash on May 12. A race preview, as well as an interview with Ray Harroun to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first “500” (1911-1961).


1962

WFBM-TV was again the leader in local coverage, starting with “Opening Day at the Track” on Saturday April 28. A wrap-up show (“Trackside”) and daily bulletins from the track were aired nearly every day during the month. All four days of time trials were again covered, along with the Drivers Meeting, Old Timer’s B-B-Q, race highlights, race previews, victory banquet, movies, and the pro golf tournament.

Tom Carnegie, Fred Agabashian, Jim McIntyre, and Bernie Herman anchored the coverage. Bonnie Cadou joined the broadcasting team, the first female reporter in several years. WTTV carried qualifying, and featured a nightly wrap-up show with Chuck Marlowe and Pat Flaherty. WISH and WLW-i also carried live track reports and coverage of time trials.

Trackside (WFBM-TV)
April 30 through May 21 – 6:30p.m. (15 minutes)

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 12 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Sunday May 13 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Saturday May 19 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Sunday May 20 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Tuesday May 30 – 10:00 p.m. (30 minutes)

ABC’s Wide World of Sports
For 1962, ABC’s national coverage of the “500” was minimal. ABC’s Wide World of Sports featured the “500” Festival Bowling Tournament on their May 19 episode. A live report from the Speedway was part of the episode, with a brief update on time trials.


1963

WFBM-TV’s extensive local coverage of the 1963 Indianapolis 500 track activities began on April 29. Their announcing team of Tom Carnegie, Jim McIntyre, Fred Agabashian, Bernie Herman, Fred Everett, Jim Gerard, and Frank Prater covered the action between television and radio.

Once again, a 15-minute daily show titled “Trackside” aired at 6:30 p.m. to recap the day’s news and highlights. The traditional qualifying telecasts aired on all four days time trials, and numerous ancillary events were again covered. The golf tournament, the Old Timer’s BBQ, classic race highlights, race previews, race bulletins, the 500 Festival Parade, post-race highlights, and the victory banquet.

Unlike most previous years, WTTV (channel 4) no longer simulcast WFBM’s qualifying coverage. It appears that WLWi (channel 13) took the broadcast instead. WTTV (channel 4) and WISH (Channel 8) both conducted reports from the track, airing recaps, previews, and highlights of time trials.

Trackside (WFBM-TV)
April 29 through May 29 – 6:30 p.m. (15 minutes)

Time Trials (WFBM-TV)
Saturday May 18 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 6:40 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Sunday May 19 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Saturday May 25 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 6:40 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)
Sunday May 26 – 4:30 p.m. (1 hour) and 11:15 p.m. (5 minutes, highlights)

Race Day (WFBM-TV)
Thursday May 30 – 9:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

ABC’s Wide World of Sports
ABC’s Wide World of Sports returned for the third year of national coverage of time trials. After very limited reports in 1962, the qualifying coverage for 1963 expanded back to a level comparable to their first appearance in 1961. Charlie Brockman anchored the coverage on May 18, which featured a recap of pole day time trials. The 90-minute broadcast (4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. eastern) was a mix of live and taped reports at the track, interspersed with coverage of the Championship Trout Fishing Tournament at Lake General Paz, Argentina. Two days after the race (Saturday June 1), Brockman anchored a brief segment on Wide World of Sports, conducting interviews and narrating race highlights. It was reported that ABC had an option to air highlights on the night of the race, but they elected not to do so.

The 1963 race has a particular distinction, as it was the final time drivers were allowed a lengthy amount of time to complete the full 500-miles. Up to this point, after the winner crossed the finish line, the race was not yet over. Other cars still running were permitted to continue. In very early years, completing the full 500 miles was even a requirement to receive prize money. The extra time allowed varied over the years. At one time it was more or less unlimited – as demonstrated in 1912 when Ralph Mulford famously took 8 hours and 53 minutes to finish 10th (and collect $1,200 in prize money), much to the chagrin of the officials. Sunset was the only obstacle, and Mulford – the only car left on the track (in front of empty grandstands) – finished before darkness. Eventually the extra time was reduced to about an hour, then over time, down to about 15-20 minutes. Sometimes it was focused instead on a specific desired number of finishers (e.g., 10 or 12), and was almost always at the discretion of the officials. With no live television coverage, the 1963 race had no pressing limitations for finishers. That would change beginning in 1964.


Indianapolis 500 on Television — Five-Part Series
Part 1
1949‒1963
Local Era
Part 2
1964‒1970
MCA/WWOS
Part 3
1971‒1985
Tape Delay
Part 4
1986‒2018
ABC Live Era
Part 5
2019-Present
NBC Era

Additional References and Works Cited