TV: NASCAR races should be shorter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Associated Press
The NASCAR notebook …
CHARLOTTEó Fox Sports chairman David Hill believes NASCAR races need to be shortened to fit into a three-hour broadcast window.
Hill said Monday night the length of races ó many stretch well into a fourth hour ó is one of the problems thatís contributed to NASCARís sinking television ratings.
ěI think the racing is far too long,î Hill said during Charlotte Motor Speedwayís annual media tour. ěThere is more diversion, more opportunities for stuff than any other time in manís history.î
Hill said the ideal for Fox would be a four-hour broadcast window, with 40 minutes of pre-race coverage and 20 minutes of post-race coverage. Asked if heíd push NASCAR to shorten any of its races, Hill didnít miss a beat.
ěNASCAR doesnít negotiate,î he deadpanned.
The 38-race schedule is divided by three networks, and Fox holds the rights to the first 13 events of the season. The networkís deal with NASCAR, a partnership that began in 2001, runs through 2014, and Hill said itís too soon to speculate on if the relationship will continue past the current deal.
Personally, Hill said, heíd like to continue airing NASCAR on Fox. But because itís a business decision, the next few seasons will determine how aggressively Fox pursues a new contract.
Hill strongly defended the efforts of NASCAR chairman Brian France to stop the slide in both attendance and ratings.
ěI really think they are trying,î he said. ěI like them all, they are fantastic. They do know they have problems, and they are trying very hard to fix them. Itís tough.î
Hill said Fox is content with the consistent start times NASCAR instituted last season to simplify the television schedule for viewers. But NASCAR president Mike Helton said during testing last week that the start times needed to be reconsidered because the season is so long.
Any consideration to shifting start times is probably to benefit ESPN, which broadcasts the second half of the season and struggled to hold viewers as the early NFL games came to a close. Hill said Fox wants all its races to air at 1 p.m., and wondered if there wasnít a simple solution for ESPNís woes.
ěWhy wouldnít you run races on Saturday nights and not against football?î Hill asked.
Also, Hill said Fox would place a heavy emphasis on drivers this season and move away from heavy coverage of the mechanics of racing. He wants NASCAR to place a greater emphasis on winning when it announces its new points structure Wednesday night.
CHARLOTTEó Michael Waltrip will run a No. 15 car in this yearís Daytona 500 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of his first Daytona victory ó and the death of his late boss and friend, Dale Earnhardt.
Waltrip was driving the No. 15 car for Earnhardtís team when he broke a 0-for-462 winless streak in the 2001 Daytona 500 driving for Earnhardtís team. That day was anything but a celebration for Waltrip, as Earnhardt died in an accident on the final lap of the race.
Waltrip and sponsor Napa unveiled the commemorative car Tuesday.
Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, owns a NASCAR team and has cut back his racing schedule.
It will be his 25th consecutive Daytona 500.