Can Champ Car and IRL survive with NASCAR on ABC/ESPN?
ESPN Sports has grown into a motor sports television conglomerate, with 115 races on its assorted networks and more than 1,200 hours of programming on ESPN2 this season.
But Indy Racing League officials wonder if there is too much engine noise for their good.
The IRL, which has been with ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 since 1996, extended its contract two years ago without knowing it would soon be racing in such a crowded landscape.
The IRL competes directly with the Champ Car World Series, plus NHRA and sprint car racing's World of Outlaws, all in the shadow of NASCAR, the national giant.
ESPN Sports has been airing Busch Series races all season; its first Nextel Cup race is this weekend's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
ESPN's decision to sign NASCAR was easily understood by IRL execs, but adding Champ Car drew a predictable reaction, according to Terry Angstadt, president of the league's commercial division.
"It was like, 'Gosh, what did they do that for?' " he said.
Champ Car bought its airtime, which ESPN Sports uses, at least in theory, to pay the IRL for the right to show its races.
Angstadt said the larger issue is how everyone functions with 35 Busch and 17 Cup races, most of them in choice time slots.
ESPN2 also has "NASCAR Now," a nightly news show devoted solely to stock car racing. IRL officials have argued that a multi-division presentation along the lines of the former "RPM 2Night" would be beneficial to everyone. ESPN has so far declined.
"We'd never say never (because) we're always looking for ways to best serve the viewers," said Andy Hall, the manager of communications for ESPN Sports. "But right now we're not (interested)." Indy Star