The 2009 IndyCar Series will end under lights after the schedule was shortened by a day to make the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway a touch more drama.

The change was revealed along with the confirmed television schedule for next season, the first in which minority channel Versus gets a chance to show the unified open-wheel series alongside major player ABC.

Versus will open the season on the streets of St Petersburg in early April, and will air three consecutive races before ABC kicks off its five-race coverage, beginning with the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Each ABC event will be produced by ESPN within a seven-race period before Versus televises the final eight races, including the season finale, which has been moved up one day to become a twilight race on Saturday 10 October. The entire 2009 IndyCar Series television package will be available in high definition [HD] format.

Versus is not a complete stranger to the IRL, having covered four races in the 2008 season, and will show Long Beach, Kansas, Texas, Richmond, Edmonton, Kentucky, Mid-Ohio, Infineon, Belle Isle, Chicagoland and Motegi, as well as the first and last races of the year. ABC will show the Indianapolis 500 for the 45th consecutive season, as well as the races at the Milwaukee Mile, Iowa Speedway, Watkins Glen International and the series' first visit to Toronto.

"We are very excited about engaging two broadcast partners beginning in 2009," said IRL commercial president Terry Angstadt, "Having the season essentially broken into three segments - three races on Versus, five of the next seven races on ABC and then eight straight races on Versus - will give fans a consistent place to find the IndyCar Series all season.

"Having ABC kick off the summer portion of our schedule with five races in a compact time period, beginning with the Indianapolis 500, should really build momentum as the season heads into the heart of the championship battle. Having that battle play out on Versus, with the additional programming opportunities that we have, will give fans comprehensive coverage of the championship run."

After the first season of unification, the IndyCar Series enters 2009 with gains in viewership across all television partners, including ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. For the 17 races on the schedule last year, race viewership averaged 1.7 million across the three networks, a 21.4 per cent increase over the 2007 season's 1.4 million.

The IndyCar Series announced multi-year multimedia partnerships with ABC and Versus in August, with the latter calling for the network to televise at least 13 races a year for the next ten years. The network will also feature extensive coverage of all qualification days at Indianapolis.



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