Wednesday, December 23, 2009
NASCAR Needs Off-Season TV Coverage
This is the end of the third season of coverage with the current NASCAR TV partners. The two weekday NASCAR news programs, Race Hub on SPEED and NASCAR Now on ESPN2, also ended their season weeks ago.
ESPN has advised that NASCAR Now will return on February 1st. SPEED is starting the new season of Race Hub on January 11th.
Monday morning, the Associated Press announced the results of its annual Male Athlete of the Year voting. This award is destined for athletes in mainstream sports who garner the recognition of news editors nationwide.
This year, for the first time in the 78-year history of the award it was given to a NASCAR driver. His name is Jimmie Johnson. Like so many other NASCAR news items that have happened in the last several weeks, this story came right out of the blue.
ESPN Senior Reporter Marty Smith phoned in to ESPNEWS with the story and his reaction. In the following hour, Jimmie Johnson also phoned in and talked with the TV anchor. It was a nice gesture, but few NASCAR fans were listening.
The scope of NASCAR has proven that a weekday TV show during the off-season is sorely needed. In addition to the Johnson news, NASCAR has added Road America as a Nationwide Series race after Milwaukee was removed from the schedule. IRL driver Danica Patrick announced her intentions to race in NASCAR and tested in Daytona.
From Kyle Busch starting his own Camping World Truck Series team to the sudden health struggles of a top NASCAR executive, the news in the sport did not take a break. Unfortunately, the TV networks did.
NASCAR's online presence is fractured at best. The official NASCAR.com website fights every day with Jayski's homegrown effort over NASCAR news. A wide variety of media websites represent TV networks, online newspapers and specialty magazines. From scenedaily to FoxSports, the NASCAR Internet information sources all have their own agendas.
In terms of off-season TV, it seems that SPEED would be in the best position to handle this challenge. ESPN is jammed with other sports during this time of the year and the beginning of February is a good time for that network to return simply from a logistical standpoint.
This was the first season of Race Hub and SPEED took a big chance on starting a show late in the season that required a lot of time and effort. The program normally runs Monday through Thursday, but that might be a bit much during the off-season. On the other hand, it could be gangbusters.
There are lots of NASCAR personalities around the area that would certainly like to get a shot at national TV exposure during this time for a wide variety of reasons. SPEED broke into regular programming for both the Patrick and Busch press conferences and carried them live. Busch actually used SPEED as the location for his event.
Perhaps, SPEED will re-think this darkening of the studio for next season. With news coming in from all three national series and many other sources, there is little doubt that NASCAR has joined golf and tennis as year-round sports. Until the time that there is a NASCAR TV network, fans are looking to the existing TV partners to fill in the gaps.
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