ESPN announced Thursday the network is bolstering its motorsports lineup with a new, multiyear agreement that will mark the return of the Champ Car World Series to the network in 2007.
At least 11 of the international open-wheel racing series' events will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN on ABC in 2007, with the networks exclusively airing the series in 2008.
"I'm actually very pleased by the whole deal," Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven told ESPN.com's John Oreovicz. "It's a favorable long-term contract for both sides and it brings stability to our television package. Stability is very important to our future. For motor racing fans, it's a very good thing. There are two key aspects. To be on ESPN gives us access to U.S. racing fans. ESPN also offers a total package for sports fans, with the Web site and the magazine.
"If we can't have open-wheel unification, at least we can have a common broadcast partner. Once you get past that, the channel is outstanding in a lot of ways. Now, American open-wheel racing is at a place where fans can find it. Speed Channel [the previous broadcast sponsor] has become so NASCAR-centric that we were just a speed bump in their day."
With the addition of Champ Car to its motorsports lineup, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN on ABC will televise races in 2007 featuring the four major North American auto racing sanctioning bodies: NASCAR, NHRA, Champ Car and IndyCar. ESPN2 will have more than 500 hours of motorsports programming in 2007.
The renewed relationship will begin with the April 22 Champ Car race at Houston's Reliant Park street circuit.
The networks have a long history with Champ Car that began in 1981 when the first race ever aired live on ESPN was a Champ Car event from Milwaukee. It was won by Mike Mosley. Series events appeared on the networks through the 2001 season. Many of the great moments in the history of the series were seen live on ESPN and ABC, including Alex Zanardi's 1997 win in Cleveland, where he introduced the world to victory doughnuts, and Mario Andretti's final Champ Car win at Phoenix in 1993.
The new arrangement also provides for coverage of races of Champ Car's feeder series, the Champ Car Atlantic Series, which will be aired primarily on ESPN2.
A complete schedule has not been announced.