Sunday, October 3, 2010

The TV Curse Of The "Non-Chaser" (Repost)

Leave it to television to come up with yet another gimmick for the Chase. This time, it's a new word that is going to haunt the sport for the rest of the season.

While there are twelve teams that are running for the season championship, there are many top teams that are continuing to race to win. The fact is that there are far more cars on the track outside of the Chase than inside.

NASCAR is a sport that relies on sponsors. That reality is driven home every day with the current economic struggles of even the biggest teams. While marketing and advertising is a NASCAR staple, what sponsors really like is TV time.

Currently outside of the Chase are sponsors like Target, UPS, Bass Pro Shops, US Army, Budweiser and Home Depot. All the teams they sponsor, however, are still on the track and racing. Normally called by name on the live telecasts, ESPN has now changed all that.

Despite racing hard and going for a Sprint Cup Series race win, every single team outside the top twelve has been lumped into a new category that ESPN just loves. From Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Kasey Kahne, they are all now just called non-Chasers.

This allows ESPN to put all the focus on the Chasers and solve a problem that haunted the coverage last season. How do you cover the race while featuring the Chase at the same time? The answer seems to be simple, just pay attention to the Chasers.

Lumping 31 teams each race into the non-Chaser category lets ESPN remove them from the coverage and simply tell the playoff story of the contenders. It does not matter whether the cameras are showing Juan Montoya, Marcos Ambrose or David Reutimann. As long as that car is a non-Chaser, it just doesn't matter.

As the picture above suggests, there is a fundamental problem with this new non-Chaser approach. Despite the best efforts of ESPN to create a script that features the twelve Chase drivers, one reality remains. Fans do not change their allegiance in the middle of the season.

Just because Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not make the Chase, his fans are not going to burn their t-shirts, throw away their ball caps and simply pick a Chaser to root for down the stretch. The fundamental problem with eliminating the non-Chasers from the TV coverage is that fans of those drivers simply stop watching.

Should ESPN again present the Dover telecast as a saga of twelve drivers, the results will be the same. Fans of the non-Chasers eliminated from the telecast unless they are leading the race will simply find other things to do.

This Sunday, if ESPN decides to cover the race and let the Chase work itself out, the reaction from fans of non-Chasers will be very positive. But, one quick glance down the dial shows the NFL TV networks happily waiting for the disenfranchised NASCAR fans if this skewed TV perspective continues.

If your favorite driver is a non-Chaser, how are you reacting to this lack of TV coverage and in-race updates? If you root for a Chaser, what did you think of the last telecast? Is there a solution to the problem short of dropping the Chase entirely?

Leave us a comment on this topic by clicking 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.


Sally said...

The esay solution for the problem is to simply cover the race as it unfolds on the track. ESPN, however, seems unable to grasp this simple idea. Every race they cover , they pick certain drivers to focus on, thus alienating many fans. Ot
s extremely frostrating to watch a race and not have a driver you are interested in even mantioned on the air. Especially with the difficulty of trying to find sponsors these days, TV could go a lon way toward helping teams stay in business by simply covering the entire field. If that's too difficult for them, perhaps they should get out of the racing business. As you said, a fan doesn't suddenly change the driver they cheer for simply because Nascar chooses to pretend that only 12 cars on the track now matter. Looking at the numbers from the first 'chase' race, someone needs to wake up quickly.

JohnP said...

JD said "If you root for a Chaser, what did you think of the last telecast?"

My driver is Stewart, in the Chase. I have a Myspace Nascar page, and group. I have a Facebook Nascar page. Most of my friends are Nascar fans. We talk Nascar at work.

Alliances for teams are all over the map. Jr, JJ, Ambros, Gordon, Newman, etc etc etc.

IF Nascar does not show the race, we have nothing to chat about any more.

We have a blast making fun of each others driver when they don't do good (in a good natured way). We laugh, have get togethers, bbq and kid each other and have fun.

If Nascar does not show the racing event of the day. All that is gone.

Nascar is taking the fun out of the sport for the fans. Simple as that.

And I have to say, I think that has already happened after the coverage over the last couple years.

If Nascar wants to cancel coverange for the fans of 31 teams, then the sport will simply die. Period. It's a business plan that Will Fail.

And I say Nascar because they are simply responsible for their coverage one way or the other.
They signed the contract with these broadcasters. ESPN is not alone in shoddy coverage. Fox was a nighmare this year as well.

The effects of poor coverage is even showing up on this page. A lot of people that use to write weekly or more here are gone. The effects are wide spread because the Chase and the crappy coverage.

Once people stop talking about a sport, that sport has died. Less and less of us talk about it here, and in the real world.

It's not about the Chase. It's about the race. Use it, or loose it.

Michael said...

You can pin this one on Brian France. In football it makes complete sense to lump the non-playoff teams into 1 category, so it's only natural that NASCAR's faux playoff system would have the same effect.

From a pure playoff standpoint, the argument can be made that the non-chasers shouldn't even be racing. Obviously that doesn't work for NASCAR's business model, but I don't blame ESPN for this one.

Anonymous said...

I harp on this, but if the Chase is to stay it must be changed to give it a true "playoff" feel. That means non-chasers GO HOME when the Chase starts and Chase-also rans GO HOME when they are mathematically eliminated. For better or worse that is how things work today in sports. It is what the masses respond to and TV is about the mass audience.

Put another way I know the Cleveland Indians have fans, but I think the market for games featuring them in October would be a pointless exercise suitable for broadcast on, say, ESPN19.


OSBORNK said...

I've been around for a while. I remember listening to the radio when Fireball Roberts was killed like it was yesterday. I watch or listen to a race for the race that day and I don't care about who is ahead in a contrived and manipulated championship. When it takes 3 days to "punish" and unchosen driver, the integrity of this year's championship is already tarnished.

I like to root for an underdog or for the driver "everybody" hates. Since the underdogs are totally ignored during the chase, I guess I'll have to settle for Little Busch now, watch football or an old movie.

Scott Orr said...

Hey, the problem will "fix" itself when the sponsors for the non-Chasers all go away because they aren't getting any exposure anymore.

Then the teams will complain and NASCAR will scratch its head and wonder why this is a problem.

Anonymous said...

what espn should do is just cover the race as if its just a normal race than discuss the points after the race
show the racing not a points chart

glenc1 said...

Whatever NASCAR does, and whether one likes the Chase (I don't), it's up to ESPN to decide how to cover it, and they act as though no one else is in the race. I do wonder if NASCAR has any input on that--are they asking them to focus that way? And I might add, some of those sponsors are in negotiations--and non-coverage is not going to help.

Osbornk, Monday is normally a day off for NASCAR since they work Sundays. They had to take that car back to R&D and take it apart. I don't see that Wednesday was an unreasonable day to announce penalties, in fact it's been typical, especially if they were trying to be detailed & fair. I don't think that tarnishes NASCAR's credibility. (And I'm personally rooting for Burton or Harvick in the Chase.) They do lots of *other* things wrong, mind you.

bevo said...

"Non-chaser" will join the "casual viewer" in infamy.

Great post JD!

Anonymous said...

Finally reached a point that I have had enough and will not be watching the race today. I will be reading the comments here off and on to see what's happening. Good Luck. MC

GuardWifeL said...

It spells trouble. One wonders if this isn't a way of leading us into a different "play off" format.

I respect the Chase drivers but if non-chase drivers are out there driving hard and/or winning or finishing well, THAT is what I want to see. I'm not interested in seeing them, or their sponsors, shuffled to the bottom of the deck.

Nascar is about multiple teams every week. 12 cars on the track do not make a stock car race.

When you tailor coverage to the fans of 12 drivers, the math seems obvious. The fans of 30 other teams are going to walk away.

What ESPN and other media may not realize is that Nascar fans are more emotionally invested in "their" drivers/teams ~ as you stated, it matters not if "my" driver is in the Chase. I still support him and am far more engaged when I'm "allowed" to watch him run a race.

Anonymous said...


You must be close to my age. I was at Charlotte in '64 with my daddy and saw it. He was my first favorite driver.


Vicky D said...

You are spot on with this column, JD. Lucky for me that 2 of my favs are in the chase but there are others I like that aren't and I don't like them being called non-chasers and not shown during the broadcast at all. Nascar needs to get it through their heads that showing all the drivers is in Nascar's best interest in the long run. I love the picture of Joey too!

Anonymous said...

I'm a Dale Jr fan and feel like we got good coverage despite being out of the Chase. But a 4th place for the #88 doesn't exactly deserve landmark coverage, either.

To say non-Chasers received no coverage is an exaggeration. But this web site deserves hits and you have to exaggerate your point and seek out a single-minded audience to score page views. Kudos to your success.

- RA Eckart -

Anonymous said...

If I were a sponsor pouring large money into a sport I received no exposure in I would have to take a real serious look at spending my money in a wiser manner. Let's be honest NASCAR sets the tone to these broadcasts micro focusing on only the Chase racers and the rest are merely field fillers. I've gotten to the point this Chase means less and less to me year after year and tend to gravitate towards football. So much for this totally invented imaginary playoff system of Brian Frances put this right along with the other grand ideas he has had COT complete with tuner wing, the switching and mixing of race dates until they get his moved to another capacity within NASCAR the sport will continue to flounder and lose fan appeal. At this point Brian should hope for a football lockout next year it might be the only way to save the sport as it did the last time the NFL was on strike. When you take a stick and ball network and tell them they are going to broadcast racing this is what you get over dramatization and less than compete race coverage. For the other drivers not in the Chase you have to wonder if they have ever thought of finding a stand in just to run the car around and start their winter vacations early I doubt anyone would even notice since they sure wouldn't see it on any broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Great post, RA Eckart. I completely agree.

Contrary to the myth often propagated here, there was never a time when ALL drivers were covered equally. It is simply impossible to do that, while also telling the story of the race itself. This blog constantly advocates calling the story of the race, but how could they do that if they have to give equal time to every driver?

If your driver runs in the top 5 or 10, he will get covered. If he wins, he will get even more coverage. If he was a factor in the race and then fell back, he would also be covered. I would hate to see the skewering the booth would get if they ignored the racing up front because they were obliged to give time to some back marker.

yankeegranny said...

I am also a Dale Jr fan and I watch him on Raceview on the computer. My solution to the non coverage of the non-chase drivers has to been buy the Sunday ticket for the NFL on direct TV for my husband to watch on the big screen TV. I record the race to look at later, and listen to the race on MRN while I follow Jr on the computer. A long race can be watched in a very, very short time if you skip the commercials. I can flip over to the race coverage if something interesting happens, which hasn't happened all that much lately.

Anonymous said...

I have favs in the "it's not a playoff" playoffs and outside of it but even if by some odd reason not one of my guys made it I'd still feel the same. I want EVERYONE to get coverage. They all have fans who want to know how they're doing. They all have stories to tell so TELL THEM and not just because you have to because you were concentrating on 12 people and Joe Blow who you IGNORED for the last 4 hours comes in for the win.

Chris said...

What can I say here. I'm tired of watching NASCAR. I never thought I would say that but it that is how I feel more and more. ESPN just dosen't make it for me.
I just watched the green flag fall. I'll stick around for a few minutes but then try to catch the rest of it on MRN. At least i can get something else done around here and I probably won't miss much anyways.
Instead of each race being a"must see", now it's "maybe or maybe not".

Anonymous said...

Is that Summer Dreyer posing with Joey Logano?

Daly Planet Editor said...

It most certainly is the one and only queen of all NASCAR media!

We dont need Reed said...

We dont Need Reed. That covers it.
and we dont need jabber jarrett..
and as for handy andy he is just
As for " talking about favorite
drivers "
Do what Bill Weber used to do ..

was the only thing TNT was good for. And finally please tell Reed that we do know he graduated from Broadcast school

Saying what must be said said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.