NASCAR Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: The Search for More Money

How much is the new NHL deal worth?

This week, ESPN and the NHL agreed to a sweeping new TV rights package, beginning with the next season later this year.

The seven-year deal brings a reported $400 million to the league annually, or double what the league’s current deal with NBC brings.

The interesting part of this TV contract is that part of the schedule includes exclusive rights to 100 regular season games, of which only 25 will be on ABC or ESPN. The rest of the games will be on ESPN+ or Hulu.

This won’t be the only big contract that hockey will sign before next season. ESPN’s contract only calls for early round playoff games and three games of the Stanley Cup Finals, getting the fourth every other year. That means somebody, most likely NBC, will be signing the league to another TV deal for the rest of the Finals and playoff games, along with more regular-season games, which means the league is on pace to potentially triple its national media rights fees in one round of negotiations.

NHL will not be the only league announcing big new deals this spring. The NFL is currently in negotiations with its partners for their next round of TV contracts, during which it is expected it will be asking upward of $2 billion annually from each partner.

What does this have to do with NASCAR? 

Everything. It has never been more evident in the past year that the thing that keeps the organization afloat are the current massive TV rights deals, from which NASCAR is earning a reported $820 million per year.

There’s evidence to suggest that NASCAR should theoretically have a big rights increase. Logically, it should if it’s beating hockey every single weekend in ratings. NASCAR being able to walk into boardrooms next year and flaunt that Michael Jordan and Pitbull are both active owners in NASCAR teams will be a huge icebreaker for negotiations, especially considering that a lot of the executives at the top of the food chain now were in their 20s and 30s when Jordan was the hottest thing in the world.

All of these media companies trying to push their cable channels and over-the-top streaming networks could create some fierce competition and bidders on who gets the right to show rednecks driving around in circles, driving up the price. NASCAR could also sweeten the deal by throwing in ARCA Menards Series and Hometracks content like it does on NASCAR Trackpass, which is currently managed by NBC Sports, and also potentially its tape library, which now has decades upon decades of content.

There’s also indications that the money could dry up by then. All of these media companies spending so much money on the NFL, the NHL, even WWE could well make NASCAR the last in line at the pool. But the reality of the situation is that the money simply hasn’t dried up on sports properties for over a decade now.

This sentence may age horribly, but there just has not been any indication that the sports-rights bubble is a bubble. People just love their sports too much, and it’s really the only thing that people regularly watch in droves now, especially the NFL. Just about everything else in the world of media is getting splintered off into their own little bubbles. I just found out about a show on HBO Max today with rave reviews and that I should go watch it, when 10 years ago a show like that would be much more known. But people come out of those media bubbles to watch sports and post on social media. Why? Probably because they hate themselves.

Who will win at Phoenix Raceway?

NASCAR has had an exciting start to the season so far. With just one playoff driver from last year having won a NASCAR Cup Series race in the first month of the season, what could possibly go wrong?

Phoenix, that’s what.

NASCAR has thrown everything at this track to make it exciting. And outside of restarts, it just hasn’t been. It’s almost impossible to complete a pass on the leader at Phoenix under green-flag conditions. Really the only way a driver could regularly complete passes would be to nudge people out of the way, but the cars just aren’t durable enough to do that now unless it’s the final lap of the race.

Welcome to year two of COVID-19 racing. This weekend marks the anniversary of NASCAR’s aborted Atlanta Motor Speedway race weekend, and Phoenix, which was a weekend earlier last year, was the final normal race for NASCAR for a year and maybe a few more months. That race should be a better indicator as to who will perform this weekend, as championship races are just an entirely different beast than regular-season races.

Michael McDowell is going back home a Daytona 500 champion. The Phoenix oval has just never clicked for the Phoenix native, though, with just two top-20 finishes in 20 starts at the track. McDowell has pretty fairly held his own since Daytona International Speedway, sitting a solid ninth in points.

Denny Hamlin should be a sleeper pick for any fantasy team this weekend. The new short track-esque track configuration has played in Hamlin’s strengths, with a win and three top fives in the four starts since the reconfiguration.

Will NASCAR look into penalizing intentional spinning?

Last Friday in the Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch blew a tire late in the running before suddenly spinning out on the backstretch.

The ensuring caution allowed Busch to only go one lap down and enabled him to be the beneficiary of the free pass after another caution a couple of laps into the next green-flag run.

Busch refused to answer questions as to if he had intentionally spun. NASCAR’s Scott Miller responded to the story this week on Sirius XM’s NASCAR channel.

Here’s the problem with policing intentional spinning: it can be just too hard to differentiate where exactly the line is between an intentional spin and one that simply could not be avoided due to a mechanical failure.

The biggest problem with trying to get strict like this is if NASCAR were to penalize a team or driver who has very easy-to-prove evidence that the spin in question wasn’t intentional. Because if they were to appeal the penalty and the independent board that reviews NASCAR appeals were to overturn the penalty and rule that NASCAR simply cannot penalize for spinning, that could be a disaster for when there are obvious spins.

A spin like Busch’s can be excused because there was something very obviously wrong mechanically with the truck. A spin like Clint Bowyer’s eight years ago at Richmond Raceway cannot be excused, and NASCAR needs to reserve its right to penalize teams for very obvious infractions such as that.

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16 Comments
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Al Torney

You missed some big points. When NASCAR signed the big tv contract the sport was at the height of their popularity. They have lost over half of their fan base. Their tv ratings have sort of leveled out and show no signs of going up. In reality their value has decreased. With NBC dropping their spirts channel it appears they will not be getting into a bidding war over NASCAR. Keep in mind NBC had has the Play Offs which were supposed to increase tv ratings and attendance which it has failed to do. So if ABC-ESPN and NBC aren’t budding that leaves CBS and Fox to duke it out. Hmm!
Unless there is a dramatic recovery in the ratings I see bad times ahead. And if the next generation car goes over like the COT of yesteryear it’s not going to be pretty.
Another thought. Would you permanently remove seats from tracks if you thought the fans would be returning?

janice

i think the fanbase has gotten to the point where it is no longer comprised of fans that will pay the extra to get the service to watch races. if they move from cable/satellite/broadcast television, i for one, won’t get streaming service to bridge my watching. not worth the money.

when the televised flag to flag coverage started, you had earlier start times. sure tracks were lighted like they are now, but by 3:30 or 4 pm i’ve forgotten about a race being broadcast.

Hal F. Sharpe

You sure got that right. NASCAR should start at 1 PM like it used to. Thanks for bringing that up

Shayne Flaherty

What about the fans?

Paying extra for TV subscriptions and having to switch providers in order to watch races and hockey games sucks.

I side-loaded a Fire Stick and can watch almost any sporting event for free.

Thanks NASCAR, NHL, and the networks for not wanting any more of my money.

Bill B

“…who gets the right to show rednecks driving around in circles.”???

I thought you were an enlightened type person. I think you would frown upon someone saying “.. who gets the right to show wetbacks kicking a ball around” if we were talking about soccer TV contracts. Or, “who gets the right to show **you pick a slur** hanging from the hoops” if we were talking about basketball TV contracts.

janice

watch out Bill B – they’ll be coming for you!

John Locke

Haven’t you heard? Discrimination against anything South of the Mason Dixon line is proof of enlightenment.

Jo

Don’t fret, John. I live in a northern state and one of my Senators is a flaming racist by the name of Ron Johnson.

Steve

I agree with Al’s point above. Nascar just doesn’t have the following that it did when they agreed to their last contract. My opinion only, but I think the NHL has surpassed them as far as popularity, and they don’t need gimmicks to put on a good show. I feel Nascar is back to being a niche sport and, in addition to Al’s points above, the tv providers are not doing them any favors with their horrible race coverage.

With regards to the intentional cautions, it would be a simple fix. If you cause the caution, you do not get the free pass and start the next restart at the rear of the field. That would end the incentive of doing it to help your own cause.

Hal F. Sharpe

If you cause the caution you don’t get the free pass now.

Jo

Steve, you obviously haven’t been paying attention. Kyle Busch did NOT get the free pass by spinning and bringing out the caution. As Hal Sharpe mentioned, it is already the rule that if you cause the caution, you don’t get the free pass. What actually happened was that the caution prevented Kyle from going 2 laps down instead of one. He got the free pass later in a completely unrelated incident.

Steve

My bad. I didn’t catch the race so I thought he was only a lap down. No need to be a tool about it Jo.

David Russell Edwards

I think the question is what options do the networks have? Is there anything else out there that will bring more viewers to them? I think the answer, regardless of the shrinking crowds is no.
Therefore the networks will continue to pay to broadcast the events. How much of course remains to be seen. I suspect it wont be more, or not dramatically more than the last contract.
But of course the tv ratings are confused by the number of people streaming t on their phones and the number of people betting on the sports.
Still the events will still happen and life will go on.

Matthew Marks

I can say one thing for certain NASCAR won’t get 10 years 1 billion dollars for the
next TV contract since TV ratings have declined on a yearly basis since the current
TV contracts were signed.

Tom B

Could NA$CAR have their own Pay Per View operations with the cable companies, eliminating the Networks? I don’t stream because of all the buffering and shortcomings of the system. Too frustrating for a 70 year old. And who wants to watch a race on a 4 inch screen?

Jo

Get a Roku to connect to your TV – they’re cheap and you might be able to ditch your cable and watch whatever you want on your TV. It’s way better than streaming to a laptop or phone. You just need a Wi-Fi connection.

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