John Potts · Wednesday September 29, 2010
Ya gotta wonder…
About NASCAR’s TV coverage…
The crowd at Dover on Sunday wasn’t “horrible,” as a colleague on the Frontstretch live blog noted, but it was far from a sellout. Lots of empty spaces were visible, and two big sections of the grandstand were given over to sponsor banners.
I can’t blame Dover for that. I recall the first “Thursday Night Thunder” ESPN telecasts from IRP. We were afraid that the stands wouldn’t look full on TV, so we blocked off the hill outside of Turn 1. After three weeks, we opened it up again.
No doubt the economy is part of the reason for the declining crowds and TV ratings, but is there more to it?
The Chase was supposed to put NASCAR on par with the NFL and Major League Baseball in the fall. How’s that idea working out, Brian France? You got plastered in the ratings on the first week of the NFL regular season.
And Sunday’s race wasn’t the most exciting I’ve ever watched, giving me plenty of chances to flip over and watch the Falcons / Saints game. Of course, the commercials helped a lot on that.
About those commercials… I know Tom Bowles was keeping track of how many minutes of race coverage we lost to them, and I haven’t seen his figures yet, but it was a lot. They broke away with 11 green flag laps left and came back with five to go. (Granted, we’ve got some issues of our own here in southeastern Kentucky. Our cable system threw in one of those “required” Emergency Broadcast System tests with 10 laps left in a race last week.)
Still, the NFL has a solid policy on TV breaks: none during actual playing time. Quarters, timeouts, after scores, and after changes of possession. That last one leads to two in a row at times, but it’s cut and dried.
The nature of racing doesn’t lend itself well to that, naturally, but I think we’re seeing more and more commercial breaks each week.
The NFL, at least, has a lot of leverage with the TV networks because of the popularity of the sport. Does NASCAR? While they’re rapidly losing clout with sponsors, I believe they’re also losing it with the TV people. When ratings drop, a network can’t demand as much for their commercial breaks. This series isn’t the Super Bowl, with millions on the line for each 30-second spot.
That equates to less income, meaning the network has to run more ads to make money on their telecast. After all, they’re paying NASCAR and the tracks for the TV rights. We might see that change, too, and lower profit margins could have even more of an effect.
NHRA pays a hefty fee to have their national events tape-delayed and shown on ESPN2, and I don’t think they even have any control over who does the announcing. The way things look right now, it won’t be long before NASCAR’s in the same boat.
Ya gotta wonder…
What Denny Hamlin was thinking when he accused Richard Childress Racing of being one of the biggest cheaters in NASCAR. It’s been my experience that yelling, “He’s cheating!” and pointing a finger puts a target on your back for competitors as well as officials.
I think one of our writers had the best line, in quoting Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese admiral who planned Pearl Harbor and said after it, “I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Ya gotta wonder…
Just exactly where NASCAR is headed.
As far as I’m concerned, the deal with the RCR body height matter is an indication of over-officiating. It’s almost like the tech crew at New Hampshire said, “Well, it’s OK here, but let’s take it back to Concord and see what we can find wrong with it.”
I remember once in a big race at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville when we had a winner who was right on the money in the post-race weight check. Another car owner protested that he thought our scales were wrong, so we hauled it to a nearby grain elevator. Still checked out OK.
When I said we need to get back to basics on Sunday, one of our writers offered the opinion that there needs to be a wholesale turnover of the top decision makers in NASCAR for things to change. I mean, is there anybody left at the top level who really has a passion for stock car racing? Or only bean counters, concerned with a bigger bottom line?
Do we need to start all over? To chuck the whole thing and find one strong man who has a real feeling for the sport, who knows what needs to be done, and let him build it back up from the beginning? To turn it back to a “regional” sport as it was when it began, and let it start growing from that point again?
I’ve seen the same kind of thing happen before. The original ASA was an organization founded on the principle of having the best from local tracks get together and compete. Hence the original title “Circuit of Champions.” Before that, the same type of philosophy applied to ARCA.
Ron Drager and his people have kept ARCA alive, I believe, by keeping it close to that. Sure, they run Daytona and Talladega, but they also run at Salem, Toledo, and on the dirt at Springfield and DuQuoin. All kinds of tracks, but the same cars, just like NASCAR did back in the day.
Now, we’ve got some series with the same kind of aim all over the country. In our area, it’s the Ken-Ten Pro Late Models, with rules that allow teams from local tracks to compete.
Does NASCAR need to start over?
Ya just gotta wonder…
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