Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Flashback: Those Footsteps Might Sound Familiar

Update: The Chase for the Championship was designed with several things in mind. One key element was to create additional excitement during the overlap of NASCAR and the NFL. Once again this year, the final September through November slate of races on TV were topped by regional NFL games in the ratings.

The column below was originally published on August 12, 2010:

It was only the first Sunday exhibition game of the season. The NFL Hall of Fame game is a casual affair featuring sideline interviews with the new members of the Hall. While the play was sloppy and the score didn't count, the TV results were nothing short of spectacular.

"NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage of the NFL’s preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals was the most watched preseason telecast in nine years and the most watched Hall of Fame game in 11 years," said the website.

"The Cowboys’ 16-7 victory attracted 11.4 million viewers and logged a final rating of 6.8, up 39% in ratings and 44% in viewership from the Buffalo Bills-Tennessee Titans outing last year. The Hall of Fame Game more than doubled ESPN’s 2.7 rating for its Sunday Night Baseball coverage of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox."

Meanwhile, NASCAR was at Watkins Glen Sunday afternoon and drew a 3.2 U.S. rating and 4.932 million viewers on ESPN. The Sprint Cup Series has been racing since February and is in the heart of the season right before the playoffs.

We are now officially one month away from the first Sunday of regular season NFL football on September 12. Last season, the NFL simply crushed NASCAR. ESPN's struggles combined with the lack of a compelling Chase storyline motivated many sports fans to change the channel on Sunday afternoons and watch their local NFL team in action.

This year, things are a bit different. ESPN has made changes to the coverage that are working and the energy of the telecasts is much better. Marty Reid had partnered with Allen Bestwick putting two top television professionals front and center to lead the series to Homestead.

"TV Troubles With The Chase Easy To Understand" was a TDP column from October of 2009. Click the title to read the entire post and the attached fan comments.

While the various TV networks providing NFL coverage on Sunday afternoons were watching teams simply trying to win games, the NASCAR on ESPN crew was involved in something very different. Three distinct storylines were playing out within the same telecast. This confusing scenario began with something called "The Chase."

These were our words last season:

The focused coverage and media hype on the Chase drivers forces fans of non-Chasers to abandon their NASCAR TV viewing and wait once again for the Daytona 500. The fundamental problem with the Chase is there are more drivers outside of it than in it.

Last season this resulted in a scenario that drove ESPN into a frenzy and viewers away from the TV screen. This from TDP last November:

As we have seen with ESPN over the past three seasons, the biggest struggle down the stretch is to try and satisfy three different agendas on TV during each of the final ten races.

First, NASCAR fans across the nation are sitting in front of the TV and waiting to see their favorite driver. It does not matter where he is running, how he is running or if he made the Chase. Fans of a certain driver want to see that driver on TV, period.

Secondly, the actual race is underway and the dynamic of the fastest car is being played out at the front of the pack. There is a story unfolding about who can win the race and who hopes to challenge before the day is over. That has to be followed.

Finally, NASCAR created a playoff points system that demands that 12 cars be treated differently by ESPN for one simple reason. Those cars are now the only 12 that can possibly win the season championship. NASCAR has added a third storyline that trumps the first two and skews the final ten races for many fans.

As the NFL closes in, the biggest television question for NASCAR in 2010 is how ESPN is going to cover the Chase races. Follow only the Chasers and lose the fans of other teams. Follow the race leaders and lose the battle among the Chasers. Follow the best racing on the track for any position and lose track of the actual Chase.

Last year, the "Chase points right now" graphic and ESPN's man crush on all things Jimmie Johnson were brutal. The network chose to focus on the Chase and the approach fundamentally failed. It's fair to say that few teams outside the Chase were featured unless their car was in the top five on the track.

ESPN's Nationwide Series coverage last Saturday at the Glen was outstanding. The network chose to present the telecast simply as a race. The best battles on the track were featured, cars out of the race were updated and the announcers were open and honest with analysis of what was happening. Results and points were sorted out after the event was over.

NASCAR and ESPN need do nothing more than glance over at the NFL for motivation. Unless a new and fresh approach to covering the Sprint Cup Series down the stretch is put in place, the results are going to be the same. It should be very interesting to see how Reid, Bestwick and the NASCAR on ESPN production team take yet another shot at keeping fans in front of the TV when the NFL comes calling.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Darcie said...

While it's been obvious that ESPN, along with Fox and TNT, struggles to provide a decent broadcast of Nascar races, I still maintain that you can only do so much with what you're given. Yes, the various directors of the broadcasts appear to want to direct the races in the same manner in which they direct stick and ball sports, and they rely far too much on their bells and whistles like the in car cameras, in-race reporters and their cut away cars. But when you have inherently boring racing on boring tracks being raced by increasingly boring, and maybe even bored drivers, what more can be done? Fans are abandoning Nascar not because of what drivers say or Tweet, and they are not watching the broadcasts because of boring announcers and bad camera angles. They are abandoning Nascar because the sport has been ruined by the likes of Brian France and Mike Helton.

How can anyone make a race interesting when the cars do nothing but play follow the leader for 7/8ths of a race? How can the play by play guys and color analysts keep viewers from falling asleep when these guys are riding around collecting points for the Chase? Why should anyone watch when you can't tell a Chevy from a Toyota from a Ford? And why should anyone care one darned bit when you're looking at millionaire drivers who've lost the notion of what racing hard for wins is all about?

Yes, the broadcasts have been pretty bad by all three networks, but I don't think they deserve the lion's share of the blame. A majority of the blame belongs squarely on Nascar.

Anonymous said...

ESPN can try all they want, but with the current NASCAR leadership, it will be no suprise to watch NASCAR get stomped by the NFL in the ratings.

From what I've watched, ESPN is stronger and more consistant than last season. It took 3 years of complaining, but change finally occurred and the results are great. I hope the production truck continues the focus on the RACE and lets the Chase sort itself out the last 10 races.

Anonymous said...

The focused coverage and media hype on the Chase drivers forces fans of non-Chasers to abandon their NASCAR TV viewing and wait once again for the Daytona 500. The fundamental problem with the Chase is there are more drivers outside of it than in it.

In my opinion, the fundamental problem with the chase is, The Chase.

Chris said...

The NFL will continue to dominate the airwaves but The Chase has nothing to do with sagging rating of NASCAR. Writers claim that "it only gives 12 drivers the chance to win". Without the chase only 3-4 drivers really have a shot at winning with 10 races to go. Without the chase, guys like Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, and Greg Biffle would be irrelevant in October. Enough with the chase bashing!

Sally said...

Yes, only 3 or 4 (if that many) drivers may have a shot at winning the title...but without the 'chase', other drivers had a chance to move into the top 10 before the season was over. Now, we know, with 10 races remaining, who those drivers will be, just not the final order. The 'chase' has made the first 26 races mostly irrelevant. In years past, the championship didn't become a big story until the last part of the season. Each race was important in itself, and drivers didn't spend so much time stroking for 'a good points day'. With television choosing to focus on the top 12 to the virtual exclusion of the other 31 cars on the track, they are leaving many fans out in the cold with their drivers. Yes, it certainly makes it easier when all the importance is placed on only 12 drivers...but it doesn't make for compelling TV. With many fans just hoping their driver ends the season on the upswing, they might as well wait until the race results are posted on line as bother to spend an entire afternoon not seeing their driver even mentioned. A complete 'through the field' has become an endangered species these days. IN these days of scrambling to find sponsors for cars, a few seconds of TV time to actually show each car might help, and let a fan know their driver is actually on the track. Since racing, unlike most other sports, is not a one on one proposition, the whole idea seems counter productive. The fact that the tracks included in the final 10 races tend to produce less than compelling racing in the first place doesn't help. They just happened to be the last 10 races on the schedule. And trading one 1 1/2 mile flat track for another wasn't exactly 'impactful' (to use 'La Brian's made up word). The powers that be have managed to create a situation form many decisions over the last few years that make apathy an apt description of the situation.

The Mad Man said...

Folks seem to forget that at the beginning of the season, Brian France said at the Charlotte Media Tour what would be covered during the year and that's what we're being served up. He and his cronies control what the TV coverage will be like. It doesn't matter if one of his storylines is about a driver in last place. That driver will take up air time that could be better spent on other drivers.

Then add in the January to December hype about the Chase. What's the first thing out of DW's mouth when they start up the Speed TV coverage at Daytona? It's not the about Daytona 500.It's the Chase.

And I won't address the boring clone cars, clone tracks, and clone drivers. I think we've beat that dead horse enough times already.

51 yr. fan said...

The Chase is killing the sport.
When drivers are admiting to points
racing the first 26 races we have
the aforementioned merry go round
of "racers". When the final chase
begins drivers 13-43 have no chance
of RACING into the top 12 for the
remaining 10 races and the bigger
money spots. Another of Brain Farce
great ideas.

Mariemont Kiwanis said...

Total agreement with Chris - the only thing I disagree with about this article is the idea that teh Chase loses sight of 30 other drivers because without the Chase you'd lose site of 40 other drivers. High ratings comes from high hype. Grant it, I live in Cincinnati, but I'm a Steelers fan who watch the game because of the hype - the bromance of Ochocinco and T.O. and T.O. competing against the Cowboys. Regardless that the real players only played a few reps, the hype was there and it came from EVERY NETWORK including ESPN which wasn't even carrying the game. I don't think I tuned in to NBC at all last week, yet I still knew to tune in for the game. Maybe if ESPN spent less time promoting the hell out of Danica Patrick we'd see some better ratings. Maybe if Marty Reid spent less time focused on the start and parkers we'd see some better ratings. Maybe if Nascar Now wasn't pre-empted by late-night poker we'd see better ratings. An NFL pre-season game between two OK teams should never see better ratings than a NASCAR race in the middle of one of the best seasons to date, four races before the playoffs. Unless NASCAR starts getting treated like the popular sport that it is, it will never return to ratings of the past. As long as you have to sit through more NBA and WNBA news than NASCAR news on ESPN, nobody will watch. Same can be said for promoting Danica, anyone with half a brain would wonder why ESPN would promote someone with a best finish of 30th as much as they do.

Unknown said...

No one will listen, but the PGA Tour has a much better playoff system with the FedEx Cup than NASCAR does with The Chase.

Brain France & NASCAR could learn a little from the system the PGA Tour has put in place the last few years.

GinaV24 said...

I enjoy Marty and Allen very much and right now ESPN is doing a really nice job of covering the races. That's the reason I tune in -- for the race, not the chase, not to follow whoever is the driver du jour. I really hope that ESPN doesn't go to their "script" again when the chase begins. For the record, I absolutely positively HATE the chase and the only tweak I want to see is the one where it goes away, anything else is just another gimmick.

I have to agree with Darcie's post, too, that a lot of the racing itself is just not as compelling, at least for me, to watch as it once was. I can do a high speed parade on the interstate in the morning, I don't need to tune into it as a sport. NASCAR needs to fix the aero push that the COT was supposed to fix - didn't work out that well did it?

Between the cookie cutter tracks and the IROC cars and drivers who have been told to only speak the happy talk by NASCAR, well, it doesn't make for riveting TV. Plus you have domination of the Nationwide and Cup series by only a few drivers.

As we talked about last year and probably other years as well, I tune in to see how MY favorite driver fares at each race and people don't change their allegiance whether or not their driver is in the chase. When I'm fortunate enough to attend races, I can follow my driver AND all the racing on the track because I can see the whole thing. My driver is probably not someone else's favorite so balancing all that is difficult, but I'm still convinced that wider - longer angle shots of the track would give people watching at home a chance to SEE the racing action and give it perspective that all the in car and bumper cam shots don't and would help it be a turn off like last year's debacle with Johnson. I mean the in depth coverage of every pit stop and lug nut issue was so overdone, it became nauseating.

My last comment is that IMO one of the best thing NASCAR could do to get people at home watching again is to get over whatever issue they have against showing the commercials during the action. They've always said its a sponsor issue, but it doesn't seem logical to me that any sponsor in these tough times would refuse to agree to it. Since there are no "natural" breaks in racing like in the stick and ball sports, side by side commercials would allow the continuity of the race to play out AND people would actually see the ads, even if they record the race. I wouldn't walk out of the room to do laundry or other stuff around the house during the commercial because the race would still be on.

Seems like a win win to me.

rambling2010 said...

a few weeks ago Tony Stewart blamed the negative media for declining ratings (and he calls Boris an idiot?). Likewise, NASCAR blames it on negative drivers twittering, which is stupid too. I think most race fans are capable of thinking for themselves ('shock!', 'horror!'). On the other hand, I also don't think the racing is as bad as some seem to indicate.

I have to give NASCAR credit (much as I hate that) for at least listening--they have already said they are working on ways to make the cars more distinctive, and they have already gotten rid of the wing and put the spoiler back on. We've had close, good racing at many of the races this year. Don't know if people expect a photo finish at every race, but that has *never* been the case. Back in the 'good old days' drivers sometimes lapped the entire field.

I also do not believe tracks are 'cookie cutter'. Being a D shaped oval doesn't make Charlotte the same as California, and the drivers will tell you that too. There are 36 races on the schedule, including 4 plate track races, 2 road courses, 6 short tracks (each of the 3 quite different)...Phoenix, Dover & Pocono, Darlington, which are all different, that's 7 more. About half the races are at those supposed 'cookie cutter' tracks which are still not all the same (and some of which, like Charlotte and Atlanta, usually produce good racing).

Yes, some races it's hard to pass which makes them less exciting and that's the area they need to improve on, either by the tracks or the cars/tires/rules packages. That would make the biggest difference, imho.

But I also don't believe the drivers are clones. If anyone can convince me that David Reutimann is just like Tony Stewart, or that Jeff Burton is Brad Keselowski, then we can talk. I'm not talking about VL speeches--it's the things they say when they're away from all that, their hobbies, the way they live their lives. Perhaps if ESPN and Speed/Fox did a better job of sharing that, people could see it better. But I think people are too lazy to pay attention sometimes, quite frankly. I don't expect drivers to pretend to be something they're not. Making themselves acceptable to sponsors doesn't mean they have given up their personalities--some of them are just low key guys by nature. Perhaps we see more of them in racing because it takes that kind of person to succeed.

Honestly, I think the decline is partly the normal leveling off of fandom, and the lack of distinct brands (even though I personally don't care about that), and the Chase. I also think the networks do a lousy job of promotion and presenting their product.

How all this relates to football coming on as the Chase goes into full swing; well, I think we all know football fans are extreme in passion and number. I see nothing to indicate that the networks are suddenly going to start paying attention to the issues. But if they start on the 'Jimmie Johnson' obsession again (whether it's him or another dominator), that's *really* going to send people over the edge.

Anonymous said...

To me it is all about the competition on the track. Cars nose to tail or three wide get my interest, not solo shots of the leader 30 car lengths out in front. The chase and top 35 are nothing more that barriers to competition.

The product NASCAR is trying to sell is ancient.

Now I would be interested if that magnificent safety cage was sitting on 4 wheel independent suspension and pushed by a high tech small displacement (big HP) engine attached to a 6 speed tranny. And if a detuned version was available in the showroom version, I might by a ticket to a race.

If Detroit and NASCAR were spending all their R&D money on developing parts and pieces that would have some type of application to street machines, then you and the rest of the media would have something NEW to talk about. Wouldn't that be refreshing.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

The NFL will win over NASCAR always has always will. NASCAR's popularity is declining pure and simple. The chase, the COT and NASCAR just plain being hipocrites.

Another thing I like what ESPN is doing so far with the exception of the pocono debacle but just wait until college football.


Anonymous said...

Chris, they would not be irrelevant if those drivers were winning races. This is the primary problem, the significance of each race and racetrack is diminished with this playoff format. Non-championship drivers should not drop off the radar in the fall. The winner of the race, regardless of his/her points position, should be more relevant than a winless Chaser.

GinaV24 said...

I always find Stewart's "love/ hate" relationship with the media kind of interesting, but honestly his comments about the media being at fault here just made me shake my head.

I'd just like to have honest commentary from the sanctioning body, the drivers and the media/tv folks. Then I can decide for myself whether things are good or bad in NASCAR.

Obviously my opinions are just that but the FAN is the paying customer here and that fact seems to consistently escape NASCAR.

As someone else pointed out, TV can only show us what's there and sometimes that works out well and the fans enjoy the broadcasts and sometimes we don't, but if the racing is perceived as not "good", well all the media hype in the world doesn't change it.

I've been fortunate enough over the years to go to the track and see a lot of races. Some of them I've really enjoyed and some of them, I was wishing for a place to lie down and take a nap for a while -- for the most part, I don't go back to those tracks. I do like the smaller and/or different tracks. I'm sure that each track races differently but for the most part, at least on TV, those nuances are lost to me.

Team sports are a different animal than NASCAR. We had friends who are big football fans who went to a race at Charlotte with us -- it didn't go over very well because they weren't used to watching the individual cars and how the whole race came together instead of being in a stadium full of people all cheering on their team. Even with a scanner it wasn't their idea of fun.

Unless there is some really compelling competition during the chase, I expect the NFL to crush them again. Heck, last year, I watched football and just flipped over to see what was happening during the commercials -- often enough, I found either the 48 car running alone on the screen or the race was in commercial break.

Anonymous said...

It is a HUGE mistake trying to compare TV ratings between the NFL and NASCAR. That is like trying to compare an average American's bank account with that of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. It just isn't going to work.

The focus should be on the quality of broadcast. A good broadcast may not move the ratings much at all during football season. Everybody should accept that fact, and stop looking at ratings as any sort of validation on how well the broadcast was presented to the viewers. Football is still king.

Just the way NASCAR's season is structured, it ends up being the worst time to end it for overall media attention.

OSBORNK said...

Generic cars driven on generic tracks by generic drivers with a guaranteed starting spot where the racing doesn't really start until the last 20 laps is the reason TV ratings are down. The drivers seem to have scripted statements that are interchangeable and NASCAR approved. With very few drivers having a realistic chance of winning, why watch or attend?

Regarding race attendance, the local Bristol paper this morning informed us that there are still tickets available for the night race for "only" $109.00 each. When you add the price gouging lodging establishents and parking, who can afford to attend the race if you have a normal income.

Richard in N.C. said...

I've been a racing fan since the 1960's and still am. NASCAR isn't perfect, but it never was, and I doubt it ever will be - and neither is the NFL.

I'm also a big NFL fan and I believe the NFL is the 800 pound gorilla in everyone's zoo. When I was in high school the big sport was baseball - not even close any more. I suspect MLB ratings take a hit on Sunday's when the NFL begins play too. One possible influence on the NFL's ratings and popularity that I never see mentioned is gambling. I believe the estimates I've seen for the Super Bowl handle are over $1 billion.

I believe Marshall McCluan (which I'm sure I misspelled) said you have to stand out from the crowd to get attention - such as being loud. Somewhere along the line I am convinced the media decided it could get more attention with negativity and bad news than balanced analysis. Just checked local news headlines on MSN and it appears the world is near coming to an end here - 4 headlines about death or killings. Must go now to check my stock of bullets and non-perishable food. Wonder what the shelf life is of Cheetos?

Anonymous said...

Blame is everywhere. The format, the chase, the tracks, some of the racing, the lack of media spending time announcing and talking about all drivers, the biased media having their favorites and only talking about those few, fans badmouthing every aspect of NASCAR, the tracks, the in car cameras, remarks made by media before they know what happened and even when they do manage to correct their view of an incident, the fans have already taken the first remarks as gospel and formed an opinion, even more so if it is in their favorite driver's favor. I could go on and on but the fact is we are all to blame. Like Tony said, when one tells someone something over and over, people begin to believe it. Bottom line is the country is full of complainers, pure and simple.

GA Red

Jonathan said...

The NFL will always be the NFL, but seriously you all make it out like Nascar is dead when the NFL is on! Its not trust me, like the previous person stated the NFL will take away ratings from all the other sports as well but we dont talk about that. I love the chase and glad its here all sports need a playoff and yes even Nascar! I dont know why all the hate cause we have a chase. Oh i only watch the race not the chase.... thats like a baseball fan saying im not following the playoffs im just watching the game??? What???? Comeon people if you dont like Nascar why do you watch, why do you come on here to bash em? why why why just leave the sport alone and go watch the NFL and see some grown men tackle each other w a ball woohoo sounds like fun to me :) The chase is exciting it brings me closer to the tv to find out whos doing what and I love it. Its a shame all you cant come to grips with the chase and accept it for what it is. Dont forget the Colts were the powerhouse team last year and if the NFL didnt have playoff they would of won the championship all the way but guess what thats not how sports works. Some of you need to stop the bashing and watch the racing its much better that way.....

GinaV24 said...

Richard in NC -- don't know about the shelf life on cheetos, but I hear that twinkies will last forever.

I do get your point about all the "world is ending" stuff -- for instance I don't watch my local news any more since knowing how many people have been shot and killed overnight in Phila, Delaware and other parts of the Delaware Valley is too depressing a way to start and end by day.

That said, I would just like to hear facts, not speculation, from the media reporting on NASCAR. It often seems there are only 2 types of commentary -- those looking through rose-colored glasses or the world is ending stuff. Somewhere in between there is reality.

I only know for myself that I don't watch as much as I did and I can trace that lack of enthusaism not to the media telling me the racing is terrible, but to my own experiences - sometimes from TV and sometimes from being at a track and being sorry I'm there or at least wishing for a place to relax until the last 20 laps. I don't remember that happening as much before the ugly car and the overwhelming emphasis on the last 10 races of the season. Also there's the fact that, I'm tired of Johnson, Johnson, Johnson all the time. The trouble is - if he's winning, the media has to cover it, even if it makes me want to scream.

Gatorfan said...

Richard--all new outlets put up the biggest stories first, and they are not usually happy things. As you say, their job is to get attention. But as long as I can find the info that I want, and it's balanced & not tainted by personal opinion, that is all I'm looking for. It's not that hard if you look *beyond* the front page. I also object to people painting 'the media' with the same brush, as if it's one entity. The National Enquirer considers itself to be a newspaper, I'm sure. Would I believe their reporters instead of say, just about any other daily in America? No. Mike Joy is the media, so is Michael Waltrip (or someone thinks he is.) I wouldn't put them in the same class either. Not ALL reporters bash NASCAR.

glenc1 said...

Gina...your story reminds me of a friend who went to her first race at Charlotte a few years back. She *hated* it. Bored to tears. Couldn't understand why they kept having those 'intermissions.' LOL.

I think this is a good conversation. I'm still watching every week, so obviously I don't think the racing is bad (there are a few bad apples that rarely produce a good race. Thank goodness Fontana just lost a date...) I have never believed in the generic drivers stuff, and that talk was around long ago. I do think they censor themselves for sponsors, but that's just common sense. And frankly, I'd rather hear that than some dude making an arse of himself. If we thought they were all the same, no one would pick one to root for....frankly, I think Kasey Kahne is a good guy but has the personality of a wet mop...yet he's still a popular driver (and no, it's not just women....)

as for the hyped stuff--I don't like it, but I have to the Glen last week, there was a Danica souvie trailer. She wasn't even there, and yet...there was a LINE to buy things, it was as busy as Jeff Gordon's. I glance over and Kurt Busch's trailer has not a single shopper. Just saying...I don't get it, but they'd be foolish not to bring her up at all (it just needs some balance.) I hated, as did many of you, the 'Jimmie' media hype last fall. Drove me to the radio more than once. And if they do it again, I will be watching more football.

I do think if they keep tweaking the cars, they can probably make the racing better some places, and that would fix a lot of issues. If we could get more guys like Ricky Carmichael and Brad K it would help. I don't root for Brad, but I think he's interesting. Anyone other than Johnson winning the championship would help. And getting the 88 to win a race or two. At least getting competitive...that'd work wonders for the ratings eventually.

Anonymous said...

I have seen multiple comments kvetching about drivers settling for "just points racing."

Wasn't the point before to collect the most points? Do those fans saying that believe that in 2004 drivers just decided to stop trying for wins and decided to only race for the best points they could get?

The structure is different, the goal is the same - get the most points.

JayJayDean said...

Maybe it's time everyone took a step back and remember that NOT EVERYONE LIKES NASCAR, and started gearing the broadcasts toward people who already like and follow NASCAR instead of the (according to the ratings) few people who are new to the broadcast.

Example: Have you ever watched Australian Rules football? I found myself watching a match on ESPN a few weeks ago because someone Tweeted that it was a huge match and there was really nothing else on at the time. It turned out to be a GREAT match, and I was riveted despite the fact that I only had a mild understanding of what was going on. The footy commentators didn't seemed the least bit concerned in explaining the elementary aspects I didn't know, either. They left it up to me, the viewer, to be "in" with the action and to figure it out. What a concept!

You know when my favorite races to watch are? Monday races that are due to rain-outs. Why? Because the guys in the booth KNOW that the only ones watching are die-hards and they cater to them (us) appropriately. DO THAT ALL THE TIME and the noobs will figure it out for themselves.

(I'd also point out that SPEED's F1 commentary team does a better job of straddling that "hardcore fan/new fan" line than any of the Cup broadcasts do. ESPN would do well to take some notes from Varsha, Hobbs, and Matchett.)

Richard in N.C. said...

GinaV24- having done extensive research I can assure you that Twinkies (esp strawberry filled) will not last over a week.

OSBORNK said...

I've watched Nascar racing since it has been televised. Even with my faulty memory, I remember boring races back then. We continued to watch them because there was little else to watch. With today's choices, we have become pickier and more vocal. Of all the races I have watched, I best remember to Talladega race where Bill Elliott made up two laps under green and won the race. I have no idea who led the race and the camera concentrated on Elliott as she passed the entire field twice.

I think the drop in race attendance is partially because of the nationalization of the sport that spread tracks throughout the country. The most dedicated fans are in the southeast. They cannot afford to make the long trips to far away tracks. If they do make the journey, the cost is enough to go to two or three races located close to where they live. They go to a distant race and leave seats empty at two or three other races.

Anonymous said...

You know what, I always thought that the damage was done when Nascar went to the COT car although its safer. Sure the economy has played a role but I don't think it would have been this bad if Nascar had kept the old car.At least the racing was good with that car.

LVI56 said...

I completely agree with JayJaydean, the commentators are what make the race. Many have said MRN has better coverage because of how they cover the racing, nothing fancy, just tell us what's going on.

Ever since I could remember there were boring races. There's always races where you know it's going to be long green runs and fuel mileage, then there are those you know will be nail biters. Remember the Talladega race this spring? Amazing!

You always have to remember it comes down to business. To cover the race, TV has to include ads and commercials. Hey, at least they don't stop the race just to go to commercial! FOX and ESPN do an amazing job covering the races considering how much money, man power and technology goes into setting up a broadcast. I won't even mention TNT...sorry but, wide-open coverage is the only thing they brought that didn't put me to sleep. I think we all knew ESPN would take a while to mature back into today's Nascar, and they have done a great job.

Anonymous said...

I will never understand the constant comparison to the NFL. No other major league sports makes NFL comparisons and yes the MLB suffer some rating lost on Sunday Night Baseball. Football and Racing are so very different. The constant complaining about NASCAR is mind blowing. When was it better? Before the COT? Maybe as I agree the car is just ugly. However, the can pass has been a staple sentence since??? It has been that long. Football fans don't like everything about the league, or the refs or the players or the broadcast but nobody complains like NASCAR fans. But I will say you might get what you want this time. There is so much media blasting and negativity around this sport you do not need to worry about attracting new fans. You may get your core fans back but that still won't bring the rating up enough. The NFL gets new fans every year. All major league sports try to get the new fan base it is the way they grow. It seems that the 'core' fans do not want to GROW the sport which is fine and okay. However, when you don't grow the world passes you by.

E-Ticket said...

I often want to know if ESPN won the rights to the Broadcast or they where bidding against noone and won by default. Once the NFL starts the NW series wil suffer as will the fans.. King Brian and the folks in the Ivory Tower will understand the NHL is biting at their heals when it is time to renogotiate the contracts... But every family member will have made their fortune and moved on...


GinaV24 said...

GlenC - she must have been at the All-Star race -- geez, yes, the last couple of years it has gotten so disjointed with all the intermissions that it makes me crazy. I'd almost rather that they just ran 2 20 lap segments and then the final 10 lap shootout -- I'd get home before 1 a.m. that way and see a more exciting show -- since to me that one's a show, not a race.

Richard in NC -- man, that really disappoints me -- I heard twinkies would last forever!

glenc1 said...

Gina, it wasn't the all star race...she was talking about the cautions, lol. Couldn't get why they were just riding around behind the pace car! Obviously it was her first race but even though her daughter gets free tickets, she'll never go back. Some people will just never enjoy it, I think. On the other hand, I know people who don't like/understand football & never will.

Anon there's an example of a selective memory. There were a LOT of boring races with the old car too. Any caution free race at a midsize track can easily get the field stretched out and many cars lapped. And then it usually comes to pit strategy and fuel. I don't really mind that myself. Just a different aspect.

GinaV24 said...

GlenC1 -- oh man, that's even worse then! NASCAR isn't for everyone and oddly enough that was one of the best things about it. I think NASCAR didn't realize that it being so unique could be a positive and by trying to mainstream it have actually wound up causing more problems. The law of unintended consequences comes into play.

I agree, too - there were lots of boring races with the old car, too, but this car is so darned UGLY and because it was supposed to fix the aeropush problem and didn't. then add in the points racing stuff because of the chase and it all takes a toll from the fun factor.

The new Nationwide car is a lot better looking.

Jeff said...

In short, the Chase sucks, always has, always will, expanding it will only make it suck more. I've hated the chase format from day one.

Contrived excitement is just that, nothing more, reading Brian France's response to questions merely proves the NA$CAR only hears what they want to hear. I spent less time watching NA$CAR coverage this year than ever in the past, I don't see that changing next year, especially where E$PN's coverage is concerned. I absolutely loathe E$PN's practice of coming from commercial and turning the broadcast over to the monkeys in the trailer, Daugherty is nothing more than a cheerleader, Rusty is a parrot who swings with the wind. The booth isn't much better, Marty Reid is just a travesty in the booth, honestly I spent little time time watchin any coverage of the last 10 races, and the majoity of that time I was listening on the radio, I dont see anything changing that for me unless some MAJOR changes are made across the board.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the Chase is creating a lot of the problems facing NASCAR right now. The fact of the matter is that the first 26 races of the season only matter marginally in the big picture, which is more than disappointing.

Then we get to the last 10 races where we have artificially reset the points. Now, obviously NASCAR is not going to get rid of the chase, but why does the TV coverage have to change because the points have tightened up? Before we had the chase there were definitely seasons in the past where the points were fairly tight among a few racers with 10 or less races left. In those cases, did the focus become solely on the championship? Of course not! So what is the difference now?

Just because it is a "playoff" doesn't mean the coverage should change. The championship means no more now than it did before the chase was formed, and championship battles existed before the chase without this 'focus' problem. It seems as though the media suddenly views the championship battle as more important because it has a fancy meaningless title added to it.

Last, how many fans watch the races so that they can see a close championship battle? Then I would ask, what is the point of watching any race but the last race? I personally watch NASCAR races for the race itself and track point standings after the races have finished. I watch for the racing. If the last two or three races of the season come and there is a close championship battle, well that is great, an added bonus, but I still want to see great racing on the track during those races as well.

The Chase will probably never go away. But television could sure make it a lot better by refraining from pointlessly hyping it beyond oblivion ignoring all racing to focus on a championship battle that never got so much focus before the chase started.

Oh, and the 2003 Busch and Truck championships are proof that the chase is not required to have a close championship battle.

GinaV24 said...

I went back and read the columns in the links in this recap. My opinion of the chase and its impact on how much I enjoy the races has affected me hasn't changed.

I hate the chase. It has ruined almost all the fun I used to have watching and attending races (well the ugly car and Johnson's dominance has played a part in that as well).

Right now I don't need to watch the last 10 races. So if France decides to do a one race winner take all championship, I'll have even less reason to watch and the "championship" will mean even less than it does now.

Until the advent of the chase, I was involved in the season right up until the end - even if my driver wasn't going to win the big trophy. The main reason was TV was going to cover the race. Now they don't and I take a lot less pleasure in watching or going to the race.

Like Cale said -- people have just lost interest.

bevo said...

The Chase has a very basic flaw in it from a structural standpoint. NASCAR set up a points system many years ago that rewarded consistency. The reason was very simple, to insure full fields for every single race so the sanctioning body could insure purses for the drivers. Promoters were assured that they would have full fields. This is also the basis for the qualifying system, to give a break to teams that show up for every race.

Needless to say the economics of NASCAR have changed since the 1950's and 60's. They no longer have to worry about full fields each week. Promoters know they have a goldmine every weekend. Yet the point system for the first 26 races is still set up the same with a slight tweak for the winner.

Then for the last 10 races those points are meaningless and a 10 point bonus is added for each win. It's as if a bunch of runners showed up for a marathon pacing themselves until suddenly the race is stopped and a select few of the field are lined up and told that it's now a 3 mile sprint.

NASCAR has to decide what a point structure is supposed to reflect. In my opinion if you have one it can only be used for a full season, not part. If you want a playoff then just have a race for those 10 drivers. I personally don't care for that option so I would just do away with the Chase format. It doesn't give us a real champion.

Matt TSB said...

It seems like there are two logical choices:

1. Accept that Nascar will never come close to the TV numbers that the NFL puts up and just move on.

2. Accept that Nascar will never come close to the TV numbers that the NFL puts up and so end the season early and get out of the way.

I really don't think there is anything that either Nascar, ESPN, or any other broadcaster can do to counter the NFL juggernaut in the fall.

Interest in Nascar appears to be reverting to its natural level. There is nothing wrong with that, but it will require some big adjustments on the part of a lot of people. NASCAR needs to prepare itself for much smaller rights fees they next time around. The teams need to accept that sponsorship will be harder to come by and less lucrative when secured. Fans will need to accept that races will probably become harder to find, not easier, with the next TV contract.

As has been previously explained on this site, no one broadcaster wants the whole Cup season as it currently exists. Maybe with a shorter season that would change. Offer up a six and a half month product (mid Feb - late Aug) and see if you can get one broadcaster to step up and take the whole package, then consistently promote it and be an actual "partner" in driving the growth and health of the sport.

ESPN/ABC thought they could do decent numbers with the Chase, that obviously isn't happening. Maybe they don't come after the fall portion of the schedule next time, or bid a much smaller number. Maybe everybody lowballs the last 10-12 races.

Football has always been competition for the end of the racing season, but things have changed and I think those changes have to be acknowledged.

First you have Sunday Ticket. 10 years ago if you didn't like the game that was on in your area, you were out of luck. Maybe you'd click around and settle on the race or some other event. Now for about 5 or 6 bucks a week spread over the year, you can see almost every single game and either never miss your favorite team, or always watch the best game of the week. No need to settle for a lesser game.

If you don't want to buy the package you can head to almost any sports bar and for the price of a dozen wings and a couple of cokes take in every game at once.

The other major change is the explosion of fantasy football. I don't really get it, don't play it, but enough people do that even NFL teams are modifying the information presented at their stadiums, with stat-trackers and more out of town updates rotated through ther scoreboards so that fans in the seats can easily keep up with "their" players or various teams across the league.

If NASCAR insists on going up against the NFL in the fall, they quite possibly will have to accept being on a lesser outlet - think NHL or Indycar. On the other hand, if they shorten up the season they might have the opportunity to become a major focus of one broadcaster's sports department, instead of filler programming for three different ones.

Anonymous said...

Agree I lost some of my favorite writers when the "it's not a playoff" playoffs started. They just gave up writing for a sport they loved for so long. And even said they wouldn't follow it as fans either.

The "it's not a playoff" playoffs can have someone run away with the title as easily as the old points system or can have a tight battle the entire time.

Truly if one person dominated all season then HE deserves to win it all. I'm not saying that because Happy was robbed I'd say it if it were Kylie.

I'm disturbed of some of the rumors I've heard of what they've been talking about to make changes. There's enough conspiracy theories of manipulation as it is and resetting the points with 2 or 3 to go just throws any remaining credibility out the window! And if you're going to add 15 might as well add everyone. I don't get what's "good" about expanding the field.

Also agree don't understand why TV has changed their coverage. Do we really need an "if the season ended today this is how the points would be" at DAYTONA! Depending on how things shake out the points picture doesn't matter the first handful of races. Due to strategy and other factors someone that you know full well will end up fighting for 35th by seasons end can end up with a top 10 at Daytona & can stay there for a good number of races depending on how things shake up. And a "name" who is always in the top 10 can have an accident can be 43rd & they'll be back in the top 10 within those same handful races.

Heck Scott Wimmer darn near won the 500 a few years ago based on strategy.

But they really need to get rid of this manufactured drama once and for all & just let the boyz race like they did in the old days. I don't care if the champion wins 0, 1 or 36 races, if he was the BEST man the entire season then he deserves it. Heck you can have that now with the "it's not a playoff" playoff. There are always several guys who win ZERO races but make the top 12. And if they can capitalize on others mistakes it IS possible for them to win the championship in the end.

FloridaMatt said...

Na$car simply fails to understand the concept of a playoff. It's not difficult. It's even simple. At the end of the season, the teams that didn't make the playoffs go home. They don't play any more. You can't watch them, and they can't affect the playoffs. And each week thereafter, each remaining team either advances or goes home.

Of course, Na$car can't do anything like that, since the sponsors of non-playoff teams would be deprived of exposure.

Oh, wait, isn't that pretty much how it works out anyway...

We have a point system which was intended to bring teams to each race, and nowadays discourages driving to the limit to gain positions.

We have a "chase". This is a family friendly web site, so just imagine what I'd say about that.

We had an effort to build safer cars turn into an effort to make cars easy to measure and make life easier for Na$car, even if it meant Cup turned into IROC. Meh, at least IROC had cars you could recognize, even if they were all the same.

We had broadcasters. Now, with few exceptions, we have performers. Several of whom are wanna-be Howard Cosells, except Cosell KNEW his stuff, and was nowhere near as full of himself as DW.

We had Bill France, Sr and Jr. They spoke to the fans, and WERE fans. Now we have Brian, who seems seriously out of touch.

I expect it all to get worse before it gets better.

Matt TSB said...

Today in Norfolk, Fox had a 1PM Redskins game. CBS countered with infomercials, NBC had skiing then figure skating, the ABC affiliate went with "Stormstories" then a home improvement show and ESPN had bowling then a rerun of a college football recap show.

When Fox and CBS had the late afternoon games, ABC had a mix of infomercials, NBC had more figure skating, and ESPN was showing billiards.

That's right folks, with the NASCAR season over, ESPN has replaced it with bowling, billiards and reruns. Doesn't appear anybody else really thinks it is worth putting serious competition up against the NFL either.

Darcie said...

Anon 1:15am, I can agree with what you wrote, but the problem with the Chase "playoff" is that's it really not a playoff in the real sense of the word. While the stick/ball/puck sports have a true playoff, and the TV networks can focus on the few teams left, it's not that way in Nascar. If it were, there would only be the final 12 drivers, racing in the last 10 races. But unfortunately, ESPN treats the last few races in the Chase as if it were a stick/ball/puck playoff because they only focus on the drivers who have a shot at winning the Cup while ignoring the other 31 drivers. Can you imagine the screams of fans if the TV networks totally stopped showing NFL/MLB/NHL teams once they were eliminated from playoff contention? Cowboys fans, Viking fans and others would not be seeing their teams play after this weekend because they're out of the playoffs. So why can Nascar fans be as outraged by the ignoring of their favorite driver just because he's not in the Chase? Why aren't the sponsors of those teams yelling into their phones at Brian France and the bigwigs at ESPN and demand to know why the team they sponsor is totally and completely ignored. I just cannot imagine why this isn't happening.

MRM4 said...

JD, do you know what the status is with Artie Kepner with Fox's NFL coverage? I just noticed this weekend he was not the director for the lead team nor with the #2 team. I was wondering what impact that could play with Fox's coverage in '11.