The Indy Racing League, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ABC Sports and ESPN have reached a wide-ranging, multimedia extension of their current agreement.

The announcement was made during the Carb Day preparations for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 by Tony George, president and CEO of both the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Loren Matthews, senior vice-president of programming for ABC Sports, and Mark Quenzel, senior vice president of programming and production for ESPN.

The new agreement, which runs until 2009, includes comprehensive coverage of the IndyCar Series in addition to the supporting Menards Infiniti Pro Series races and ancillary programming support along with both network's traditional extensive coverage of the Indianapolis 500.

The agreement includes distribution rights for IRL-related programming and content on numerous ESPN outlets, including ESPN Classic, ESPN International and, as well as opportunities involving emerging technologies such as pay-per-view, video-on-demand, interactive TV, broadband, video game development and wireless applications. ESPN will hold rights for high definition distribution on ESPN HD and Spanish-language telecasts on ESPN Deportes.

In addition, ESPN International networks retain worldwide rights to televise race coverage to 149 countries and territories. ESPN International will continue as global syndication representative. Current syndication agreements are in place with broadcasters in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, with pan-regional highlights available on Eurosport, the most widely-distributed sports network in Europe.

ESPN and ESPN2 will receive several programming opportunities as part of the agreement, including exclusive coverage of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and Indy Racing League Banquet, an annual ESPN Original Entertainment special, a season preview show and three one-hour Indy Racing League-related specials a year.

ABC Sports has televised the Indianapolis 500 since 1965, and done so live since 1986. Indy Racing League events have been on ABC and the ESPN networks since the League debuted in 1996. ESPN has televised Indianapolis 500 qualifying since 1987, and ESPN2 joined the coverage in 1996.

"Today's announcement reaffirms ABC Sports and ESPN's commitment to IndyCar Series racing," George said, "ABC Sports and ESPN have played a significant role in the advancement of the Indy Racing League. Their belief in the League via race events and ancillary programming brings the Indy Racing League long-term stability and offers our fans even more programming than ever before.

"I am particularly proud that today's agreement with ABC Sports extends its coverage of the Indianapolis 500 into a fifth consecutive decade, one of the longest running relationships between a sports entity and broadcast partner."

This season, ABC Sports is televising ten of the 16-race IndyCar Series schedule, including the Indianapolis 500 this Sunday [30 May]. ESPN or ESPN2 is carrying the other six races.

"The Indy Racing League is poised for tremendous growth and we look forward to being a part of that," said ESPN executive vice-president of programming and production Mark Shapiro, "In addition to having the Indianapolis 500, the IRL is a competitive circuit that continues to add the top drivers and expand their sponsorship base. ESPN and ABC Sports' media platforms provide an unmatched opportunity to grown the national audience."

With the commitment to expand the IndyCar Series schedule, both ABC Sports and ESPN will work with the League to develop a consistent schedule of races designed to grow the sport and increase television ratings.

"This agreement comes as a result of creative thinking and a commitment from ABC, ESPN and the IRL to continue to build the Indy Racing League and the Indy 500," said Matthews, "We look forward to our long-term relationship with the IRL and to broadcasting the greatest spectacle in racing."