Founded by former Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George, the league began in 1996 when it broke away from CART, then the governing body for open-wheel racing. Originally known as the Indy Racing League (IRL), the series marketed itself as a lower-cost alternative that primarily featured American drivers on oval tracks. In 2003, the league received legal approval to adopt the IndyCar name, and with the Indy Racing League acting as the sanctioning body, officially became the IndyCar Series. After competing with each other for the better part of a decade, the Champ Car World Series (formerly CART) merged with IndyCar in 2008, creating a single league.
Throughout its brief history, IndyCar events have been broadcast on many different networks, including CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX and TNN. In 2009, citing less than satisfactory coverage, the series signed a deal with Versus to televise at least 13 races a year for the next 10 years. Although, the crown jewel of the series, the Indianapolis 500 will continue to be broadcast by ABC, as will four additional races.
Along with being seen in numerous places on the television dial, the IndyCar Series has been known by many different names. The first year it was known simply as the Indy Racing League, but in 1998-99, the league signed a deal with Pep Boys to be called the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. The next season, a partnership was formed with Northern Light, an internet search engine company, to name it the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Though the deal was originally intended to be for five years, Northern Light backed out after two, leaving IndyCar without a title sponsor for the next eight years.
Despite the multiple name and viewing changes Indianapolis sports fans who follow open-wheel racing can rest assured that IndyCar will continue to show up in Speedway, Indiana every May to participate in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
That all changed in November of 2009, when league officials announced that Izod would become the primary league sponsor. The deal was brokered by Just Marketing, a Zionsville, Indiana based sports marketing company, and while details have to be announced, it’s believed the deal is in the neighborhood of $10 million per year for at least five years.