NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Beside the Rising Tide: The Business Of NASCAR Television

If nothing else, the Eldora truck series race is unique. It’s the only event in NASCAR’s top three touring divisions run on a dirt track. It’s the only NASCAR event to have heat races and a last chance qualifier to set the field. And unlike any of the Cup races, the Eldora race is run on a weeknight. This year, the event is to be run Wednesday July 19th. If past runnings of the event count for anything, it ought to be a good time and to date the fans have shown up at Eldora to support the spectacle.

But a lot of you won’t be able to see this year’s Eldora event or TV, at least not all of it. As of right now, qualifying is set to run on FS1 at 5. (At Eldora this round of qualifying decides how drivers will line up in the heat races, it doesn’t determine the starting order of the Main event.) Those qualifying races will be held on FS2 beginning at 7:30, which presumably will give the on air “talent” time to switch to the appropriate shirts and microphones.

The thing about FS2 is it’s like Hepatitis C. I know that there are people out there who get it, but I’ve never met any of them. As such most of you won’t be able to see the qualifying races, which to put it succinctly sucks.

Then from 9 to 9:30 (all times are Eastern as that’s the time zone I live in and I refuse to accept the other time zones as legitimate) there will be pre-race show which will air on…are they kidding me?…nope…the FOX Business channel. The race itself will also be on the FOX Business channel starting at 9:30 or thereabouts.

People in the employment of FOX have said that as many households receive FOX Business as receive FS1. Well, OK then. Time for all of us to upend the recliners and sofa and find that old channel guide the cable guy dropped off back when we got hooked up to the cash vampire that is cable TV. I’m sure it’s on there somewhere. You might want to figure it out beforehand, because using the guide to scroll through all channels when you’ve got almost 1000 of them is time consuming. Especially if you’re old, have to prop your glasses halfway down your nose, lean forward and squint to make them all out. I mean, seriously, I think I have close to 100 Spanish language (or “Mexican” as my neighbor likes to refer to them) channels. I speak barely a word of the language but when I asked the cable company if I could trade almost 100 Spanish language channels for FS2 they said “no.” There’s 10 to 12 channels I actually watch during the course of the year. If I could get just those 12 at a buck a pop a month I’d be living large and in charge. Well, maybe I’d add a 13th channel. Watching some of the crap like “Finding the Loch Ness Monster” on Discovery puts me right the hell to sleep some nights. They had a special the other night where they claimed to have found a Democrat living in Montana. They did locate some Birkenstock shoeprints and had some grainy footage of what could have been a Prius, but they never spoke to anyone who admitted to Democratic tendencies.

2016 CWTS Eldora Whole Field Fireworks NASCAR via Getty Images
How many fans will even get to see the on- or off-track fireworks this year? (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

So why on earth is the Eldora race on FOX Business channel? Well it seems that the CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinal double-header match is going to run at the same time as the race. Ummm. First off, the acronym needs work, guys. It’s longer than some relationships I’ve had. And secondly…it’s shorthand for soccer. It seems as of late FOX just loves soccer, almost as much as they hate auto racing. The only thing FOX Business has to do with racing is if they’re going to treat race fans this way they have no business covering the sport.

NASCAR fans are not alone in our travails, tribulations and trauma with the FOX networks. Someone in the FOX scheduling department is awfully optimistic when it comes to deciding what time a stock car race will end. Over the last several weeks, it seems that FS1 was set to go to NHRA drag racing after our races conclude. And usually the handoff to drag racing is at least a half hour after the scheduled start time. My guess is the straight line fans aren’t pleased. But oval track or dragstrip, all of us race fans have this much in common…..if a soccer game goes late FOX isn’t going to move it to FOX Business to get the race coverage started.

Let’s face it. Currently in the US there’s two sorts of auto racing….stock cars and “other”. But it seems at least those “other” series are trying ramp up interest in their forms of motorsport as well. Thanks to the late start time for the Cup race Sunday, NBCSN was able to present the Formula One race from Azerbaijan (is it just me or does that sound more like a Genesis song than a place) followed by the IndyCar race from Road America starting at 1 PM ET, when traditional race fans expect races to start.

As for those three o’clock start times helping the TV ratings, well, not so much. The ratings are in fact down from last year and last year’s numbers were nothing to write home about. But the official line is that the ratings are down less than they would have been had the earlier start times still been used. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s an alternative truth or just plain old wishful thinking.

On a brighter note, FOX’s annual reign of aural terror is over for another year in NASCAR. Next week at Daytona they pass the baton to the NBC family of networks which, at least at this juncture, haven’t announced any races to be broadcast on the NBC Business Channel. It’s been 16 years since FOX started broadcasting the first half of the NASCAR season. You’d think by now they’d have at least figured out how to do it halfway well, especially given the low bar they set for themselves in that era of animated gophers and what almost turned into a physical altercation at the then-Lowes Motor Speedway as promoter Humpy Wheeler threatened to cut the cables to FOX’s truck.

But perhaps there is hope. Earlier this week Dale Earnhardt, Jr. opined that if the right opportunity were to present itself for him to be a race broadcaster it’s something he would seriously consider. So perhaps Earnhardt could take Darrell Waltrip’s slot in the FOX booth? It might be nice to actually have a driver who has driven a Cup car in the last two decades explain what it’s like to drive one these days. And at 70 years of age it’s high time that DW enjoys that rocking chair the late Dale Earnhardt gave him as a retirement gift. And if the change was made soon it would give the drivers several months to re-acclimate themselves enough to know the race starts when the green flag drops not when Darrell hollers that terribly annoying “boogity” anthem of his. Waltrip’s Cup racing career lasted approximately 28 years though he didn’t win a single race in his final eight years driving. His broadcasting career has now lasted 17 years. He was considerably better at driving than he has been at broadcasting. And with all the hullaballoo about health care lately Waltrip could perform a valuable service. His retirement would almost instantly lower the blood pressures of millions of race fans between February and June every year.

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Bill B

It’s a shame the Eldora truck race doesn’t start earlier than 9:30. They usually don’t end until after 11. If that were a Friday night I’d be all in but, sorry NASCAR, I’m not losing sleep for a truck race no matter what the track. The fact that it’s been bumped from FS1 just shows how low NASCAR’s stock has fallen.

“But the official line is that the ratings are down less than they would have been had the earlier start times still been used. ” Total BS. How could they possibly know what ratings would be with an earlier start? It’s this kind of statement that insults fans’ intelligence (like empty seats at California because fans are shopping for t-shirts).

The end of BBB is past due. If they can’t boot DW out of the booth could they at least put an end to that. How can Fox be so out of touch that they don’t realize how much fans hate it.

wildcatsfan2016

I’m with you on all points, Bill B, except I want them to boot both of the Waltrip’s. I don’t watch the trucks because listening to Mikey blathering on just makes me angry.

Mike

Fox Business made a huge mistake when they dropped Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show. Though I understand Judge Nap is back as a commenter for both Fox Biz and Fox News. He & John Stossel hosted the only shows worth watching. However, Jamie Colby & Sandra Smith make my newly divorced heart go pitter patter…

Are we still talking about nascar?

janice

Man, if fox retired dw or moves him to the hotel with myers or to something else, I hope the other Waltrip would head out too. Those grid walks are a joke, and honestly I’m tired of seeing michael leer at the monster girls. That’s just way too creepy for fs2, I’ve never found it here in ATL comcast/xfinity program guide. Comcast moved wgn a month ago and didn’t tell viewers here where it went one night I flipped old channel 15 on and I found out I had another Spanish channel. I keep waiting for the Spanish home shopping channels to take over as well.

Onto second part of the season. Guess the bog question on everyone’s mind will be what will na$car do f Jr doesn’t win sat night, or Sunday am?

janice

Oops that should be creepy to me (mw’s leering)

JE Smith

Well I must be in the minority! I love both Waltrip brothers. I hope they are both with us for a long time. Ican’t imagine Gordon and Jr.both talking Hendrick all the time.

PattyKay Lilley

Hi Matt,

First up I need to tell you that I had Jay fix the link sent by whomever over there. Had yesterday’s date on it and obviously came up with nothing. All good now.

Like everyone else, I hate the deal that FOX has handed Eldora. As late as it runs, I always make it a point to see it to the end. It’s my favorite race of the year… after the two road courses. They are all that makes summer bearable these days.

NBC isn’t entirely innocent, and I know because I do weekly TV Times for our site. Their “Business Channel” is CNBC and they do shove a lot of programming over there when NBCSN is “busy” with Tiddley-Winks or whatever. I don’t “think” they’ve put a whole race over there, but practices and qualifying have been done there on occasion, and if some other live sport… tennis in one case I remember… runs way overtime, they will give you a channel alert in the crawl at the bottom of the screen, directing you to elsewhere. Discussion on our site this morning has it that perhaps FOX is looking to get low enough ratings that they can invoke the “Specific Performance” clause and escape the good ship NASCAR before she sinks into the briny deeps.

In regards to anyone named Waltrip, PLEASE, make it stop! The entire sport is bleeding profusely, and those folks are one of the causes… or 2 of the causes if taken individually. Race fans should not be forced to dread Daytona because it brings the return of the dreaded Triple B! I’m hoping… no, make that praying, that Junior will do just as you said and replace DW in the booth. In answer to another post, I’d far rather listen to Hendrick stuff that “How I woulda done it” from 40 years ago! FOX desperately needs more young talent all down the line. I’m amazed that NASCAR hasn’t pleaded their case for that, as their prime target audience caps at 35 years of age… and a lot of those folks weren’t even born when DW was Championship material… and he was kids… 3 times over.

One tiny little hint for those attempting to locate FOX Business. Its technical name is FOX Business Network, so if your listings respond only to initials, as mine do, try FBN instead of FBC. Worked for me… after I researched it on Google and got it right.

Bill B

I heard that the contract they are handing Earnhardt stipulates that he must continue to start each race by saying BBB.
Just kidding but wouldn’t that be our luck?

PattyKay Lilley

Bill, don’t even utter that where someone from NASCAR might read it and take it seriously. I haven’t heard that there is a done deal with Dale. Where is that coming from… or was that just for setting up the punch line? Remember, I’m old and easily fooled. :)

Bill B

I said “Just kidding” so yes, it was just to set up the punch line.

salb

Whether Jr. ends up in the booth or not, it is LONG past time that both Waltrips sail off into the sunset.

babydufus

hmmm. waxing waltrips, it occurs to me that they wouldn’t have to blather on if there was something happening on track that was worth talking about. My opinion is that until the racing is fixed or the networks go back to the old wide world of sports format, the broadcast both is going to need a motor mouth or two to talk about nothing.

Regarding the networks choice of channels, I never watch any nascar race in live time anymore. I’ve had it with the plethora of asinine commercials, commercial banners, crawls, the quality of racing, the production quality of the camera coverage, stage breaks and the incessant babbling. I’m just not willing to watch a nascar race without the safety of a fast forward button. It’s become clear to me that if the programed dvr doesn’t find it, I know that I probably didn’t miss that much anyway. Sad but true…. so sad.

Bruce Smith

NASCAR has turned it back on many fans. I cut the cable 3 years ago and get by streaming my programs and using an antenna. The only thing I miss are NASCAR races that aren’t on over the air broadcast TV. Most of the races aren’t even on regular cable stations, but on premium channels that cost even more. I have saved over $4,000 by not having cable the last 3 years and not going back to it.

Lynne

I LOVE the Eldora race!

Al Torney

ESPN saw the light. Fox is now seeing the light. NASCAR tv is sinking in the ratings. And Fos crewed up by signing a ten year deal. Plain and simple. That soccer show will draw more fans then the truck race.

Steve

What does that tell you about the sport that soccer gets better ratings than the race at Eldora? Don’t blame FOX, blame Nascar for running the sport into the toilet and chasing away fans. Honestly, they could put it on their regular FOX network and it would be more entertaining than anything they would have to show that night. Unfortunately that’s not how it works though.

DW needs to go, but I’m not sure I would want Jr and Gordon in the same booth. I don’t think I could stomach all the Hendrick love that would be spewed forth.

In fairness to Sonoma, it started “when traditional race fans expect races to start” locally. In fact it started before 1pm locally, being on the West Coast. No matter how much you want to complain, Nascar is not going to start a race on the West Coast at 9am local time.

Get all excited about NBC taking over the rest of the season all you want, but I don’t see too much difference in coverage. Same annoying commercials and hyper focus on certain drivers while ignoring the rest of the field. On top of that the beating us over the head week after week with playoffs, playoffs, playoffs. Just because they change the name from Chase to Playoffs doesn’t mean its going to change the way its covered.

Mary

I must stick up for Waltrips….I truly enjoy them both! And i LOVE the gridwalk segment!!! It’s my favorite part of pre-race! There are plenty of other announcers I don’t, and haven’t, cared for over the years, but I try to ‘grin & bear iti’! I’m one of the lucky ones who gets FS2, but I still miss Speed Channel, and always being able to tune in there to see what all was going on in the world of motorsports, especially on Sunday night!

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