Sunday, September 4, 2011

Updated: ESPN Gets An Early Christmas Present

Updated: Click here for an outstanding motorsports story from's Bruce Martin. He got a pretty good glimpse behind the scenes of Danica Patrick's first IndyCar race after making the announcement she is moving to NASCAR full time in 2012.

Like it or not, what we are watching is a very big media wave heading toward the Nationwide Series beach. In 2012, ESPN cannot dump Nationwide Series practice and qualifying coverage. The network risks missing Danica getting the pole or having a practice incident that affects her season. The Danica-factor is going to change NASCAR TV.

Since the Danica announcement, ESPN may well be regretting the decision to move the NASCAR Now series to 3PM on weekdays starting in September. Taking over the 5PM timeslot is the teen-driven chaos of Sports Nation. It should be interesting to see what happens with NASCAR Now for 2012.

Danica is not going to get on her scooter and drive away from the Nationwide Series world like she does in IndyCar. Suddenly, she is going to be in second-tier garages running Saturday shows that are often dominated by Sprint Cup Series drivers.

As Martin examines so well in his article, Patrick's theory of NASCAR and the Nationwide Series reality that many of us know so well is quite different. The remainder of the original TDP post documents what Patrick is going to mean to ESPN in their frustrating attempts to salvage something watchable from the Nationwide Series races in the final three seasons of the current TV contract.

ESPN's own Marty Smith took to Wednesday's NASCAR Now to announce that the network had finally taken delivery of the biggest NASCAR Christmas present in recent memory.

This package cost no money to buy, is exactly what ESPN ordered and will generate millions of dollars for the network once it is unwrapped.

Smith confirmed that Danica Patrick is coming to the Nationwide Series full time in 2012 driving for Tony Eury Jr. and JR Motorsports. In addition, Patrick will run a handful of Sprint Cup Series races for Stewart-Haas Racing. Smith said the ultimate goal for Patrick is to get full time into the Sprint Cup Series by 2013.

Make no mistake, love her or hate her, this is exactly what the Nationwide Series and ESPN needed. It comes just in the nick of time as the TV ratings show exactly what trying to promote Reed Sorenson vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the championship contenders will get. The answer is not a lot of eyeballs.

The TV dynamic of the Nationwide Series is that ESPN puts time and effort into it right up until late July. Once the network starts coverage of the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races the Nationwide agenda slides to the back burner.

In just a couple of weeks, the Saturday afternoon Nationwide Series races will once again be sandwiched between two featured college football games on ESPN2. The entire broadcast day of that network is themed around college football, except for an annoying little NASCAR race that suddenly is not very important.

Once again this weekend, ESPN is alone in Montreal as the Nationwide Series takes to the wonderful Circuit Gille Villeneuve. After six months of fans following the series on TV, neither the practice sessions or qualifying will be aired on any of the ESPN networks or online.

As TV viewers may remember, when Danica raced earlier this season NASCAR somehow got national television coverage of practice and qualifying arranged rather quickly. Let's hope someone at ESPN is sitting down with SPEED right now to make that happen for 2012.

Another interesting element in this unfolding TV dynamic for next season is the fact that Carl Edwards is said to be joining ESPN for the Nationwide Series coverage as either an analyst in the TV booth or the infield studio. First, that means Edwards will not be racing and secondly it means he will be the one analyzing Patrick on a regular basis.

The official announcement about Patrick's plans will supposedly come during the Nationwide Series' visit to Phoenix in November. That city being the home of Patrick's longtime sponsor that is expected to migrate with her to NASCAR in the form of Go Daddy.

Smith's ESPN report was quickly swallowed up in an avalanche of other media organizations passing along the same information. In just a couple of short hours, Patrick had pushed herself to the front pages of most major sports websites. Her move was detailed on SportsCenter and the grind of ESPN making sure to get that information out to its viewers had begun.

Just a couple of months ago, the Nationwide Series landscape looked pretty bleak. Short fields, start and park teams and the domination of Sprint Cup Series drivers crossing-over to trounce the regulars made for a tough TV package to promote.

Now with Patrick running for the championship, several other young guns supposedly moving up into the series and TV exposure potentially expanding, things are changing. Like it or not, the Nationwide Series now has a face that fans will be seeing a lot of in 2012 despite her race results.

When ESPN got the series in 2007, company President George Bodenheimer said the Nationwide Series was a diamond in the rough that ESPN intended to polish. Now, after five years of rubbing, ESPN might finally get that stone to sparkle.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.


John in Chico said...

Maybe, just maybe, ESPN will just walk away from The Nationwide Seres as they did when all they had was the Trucks.
They gave it Speed and look what a polished rock can look like.
Sorry, I have seen what they can do and what they do inspite of it all.
Until then, (SpeedTV) they, I think, will continue on as they have, half hearted. I hope I'm wrong.
Go Danica.

Sally said...

Well, with the Cup race delayed to Monday, the Nationwide race had more viewers than the Cup race did. And I'm sure Carl knows to toe the company line and say nothing but good things about Danica and the excitement that is Nascar.

Anonymous said...

Not even Danica can save this series. Cup driving winners, strung out non-racing, too many tight shots, misplaced in car shots, and a lost lead announcer.
Danica will be just another driver that obscures the Nationwide regulars that should be covered.

Anonymous said...

Just like buying a new car.How long till the newness wears off?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is no doubt great for the Nationwide Series, but I thought the Nationwide Series ratings were up this year? Maybe I just misunderstood, JD.

Anonymous said...

ESPN got what they lets see if Brain France shows some forward thinking and limits the number of times a cup regular can race in the Nationwide.

That way, not just Danica, but most of the Nationwide regulars would be racing for wins and the series would regain it's own identity.

Anonymous said...

This is what Nationwide needed?

JD, normally I understand where you're coming from - but if anything, this little publicity stunt will be a death knell.

Yeah, they'll get ratings. Snooki gets ratings too. Nascar wants smoosh smoosh!

You can kiss the small-time operations goodbye. Not affordable between Cup Lite and High Speed Snooki.

Chances of being seen? Roughly the same as many contest promotions going on - expect to be hit by a meteor, or lightning, or a technicolor hippopotamus before your car ends up on screen.

She isn't a hotshot in her own line of work, and she's probably gonna smash up more than a few cars here, too.

Anyone else would at least have to learn the ropes in the Truck series. Let's give her a Cup car and see what happens. Look at Sprague.

Circus. Meh. I'll find something to do then besides her media-fest.

Anonymous said...

Few will be surprised if DP makes the move to NNS full time. I'm really ambivalent on this. The series will obviously get a lot of attention, but I'm really concerned that there will be a lot of unwarranted attention paid to her at the expense of everyone else and especially the up n' comers. It frustrates me when the booth fawns over DP for every simple action they'd completely ignore with anyone else. That certainly doesn't add to the credibility of the announcers/analysts. DP can do whatever she wants, and I wish her well. What I don't like is that we continue to migrate to a "show" from "racing". The race Monday was like a breath of fresh air with really hard racing out on the track. Gone were the phantom cautions, gas mileage crapshoots,etc. It'll be up to Espn, Nascar and the media how to handle the delicate task of dealing with a full time Danica.

Anonymous said...

Totally disagree with you on this one

Danica's best shot was open wheel. Busch and Cup cars (old school references, I know) are too heavy and unwieldy for her.
She will be a mid-pack runner at best in Busch, and bottom third in cup.

She'll be a non story by May 2012

Bray Kroter

Michael Stoffel said...

Unlike a lot of the sourpusses here, I look forward to seeing what Danica will do as a full time NNS driver. She has shown steady improvement as a part-timer.
And with Crazy Cousin Carl out of the series as a driver, it will open up the possibilities for the series regulars.
And she's cute as a button!

glenc1 said...

Bray, no offense but I hope you're wrong. I think you are. She'll have more $$$ into her stuff than a lot of other teams will; that alone will help while/if she figures out what she's doing.

But as for the ESPN issue--I don't have a lot of good feelings about how they will cover this. They're all about being as sensational as they can be. But I don't believe it will hurt the other small teams...because just as 'cautions breed cautions', sponsors breed sponsors. A healthy series would attract them.

Funny thing I noticed--all those clips of Boris standing in front of his 'Thank a teacher' hauler--what's over to his right predominantly in every shot? The Taco Bell logo next door. Nothing to do with it, just an accident. The Taco Bell people are probably thinking a happy accident, especially since I don't think it's a full-on sponsorship (at least it didn't used to be, Jenkins owned a bunch of franchises, I think.) But that clip got played over and over and over. I'd like to think the network will give some love to the other NW regulars; but time will tell.

Roland said...

My only beef with any of this is that ESPN has "broke" this story 4 times this year. We all know its going to happen. They should wait till the announcement. ESPN had already lost some of its journalistic credibility with me. There was the 3 other times this year they broke this story, and in 2009 they had breaking news on Sportscenter that Harvick was moving to Stewart Haas.

Its good that shes moving to Nascar. She will never win in Indycar, well at least not with Andretti, and she has surprised me at how well she has run this year. She will be top 10 every week and top 5 in points at seasons end, no wins tho.

OSBORNK said...

I think the success or failure will depend on how ESPN handles the "Danica Project" and how Danica does on the track. If it becomes the Danica Show and she runs mid-pack or worse, the initial surge will dissipate and the regular viewers as well as the people who attend the races will find something else to do. Excessive attention to Danica will be at the expense of the other drivers and their lack of exposure will drive more sponsors away.

I think the best chance of success is to treat Danica as "one of the guys".

GinaV24 said...

Ugh. The queen of hype! She's too much about brand and not enough about racing.

for those who like her, enjoy. Honestly I wouldn't mind so much if the media would just cover her like any other racer, but no, they have to act crazy. Meanwhile I'll cheer for the other female racers who DON'T have the big sponsor $$.

I have to make an effort to tune in for the Nationwide series anyway since they usually run on Saturday's. Summer/fall Saturday's are meant for me to do something other than sit in front of the TV.

Anonymous said...

Let's give ESPN their due. They had a pretty good telecast Monday and of course the race itself gave that a shot in the arm.
But overall ESPN has disapointed many of us fans. To much concentration of any one driver is a death sentence. To much Carl and Kyle to start with.
But that's who they are. They have their ESPY'S to award their own driven agenda's. Game of the year, best sports moment etc...
They ram these people down your throats 24/7..LeBron, A Rod, Puljos, Farve, Hockey in general.."no one watches"
and the game of the week..Yankees/Red Sox.
Really? That East coat slant/bias has trickled down to who they like so it's not going to change.
Danica will do well. ESPN will be on her every move so when it happens you and I will know about it. It will be breaking news. Sports Center lead off and the internet buzz.

Let's give her some space.
ESPN will be pushing this soon enough.


Tom said...

In case everyone forgot, Danica somehow managed to finish fourth at Las Vegas in March.
Whether or not that was a fluke is up for debate.
Oh, wait...her lone Indy win in Japan came when everyone else screwed up on their fuel mileage gambles. What does that tell you about Danica's driving talent?
I have no doubt ESPN is drooling at the prospect of Danica running every Nationwide race in 2012, but once summertime is over and college football hits, she'll fade to the back burner.
She's not a savior for the series, unless she starts winning.
Danica and Anna Kournikova are of the same mold, it seems. Great looks, not enough talent to win.

Anonymous said...

Four or five sponsors can't support the whole series. Why would a sponsor put out money to hardly be seen and rarely talked about.

Also Carl is a bad idea. He should just drive.

Also too much single file in all series. Only good race is a plate race, at least they stay together and pass.

Even I can drive good in a straight line


Buschseries61 said...

Don't really understand your slant on the Nationwide ratings this season. They are pretty much even with last season.

Little League baseball will not get the same amount of eyeballs as Major League baseball. Rushing in professional players will spike the ratings, but it's not healthy. The actual event should not be sacrificed for lazy tv executives.

Danica will raise next year's ratings through the casual fan. She's done a great job marketing subpar talent. Fans new to motorsports will root for Danica for all sorts of reasons other than driving ability. It's like Earnhardt Jr., I believe he has talent, but casual fans will root for him only because his name is recognizable. The sport has suffered by continuing to pander to the casual fan. With Danica's entrance, I'm afraid how much lower we will go. But hey, at least ESPN may find the motivation to broadcast qualifying!

Daly Planet Editor said...

You can take a peek at 5 years of NNS ratings over at

Anonymous said...

I think Danica will do well and of course we all hope NNS does well. At the start of the season it is the only Nascar racing not polluted by Waltrips. ESPN is doing a good job now so lets just hope it continues and we will enjoy every moment.

MRM4 said...

I'm trying to understand how this is such big news since no official announcement has been made. This rumor was going around a couple of months ago and it seemed to be a done deal then. All ESPN did was confirm the rumor, no announcement date has been officially announced. If I was a legitimate member of the media, I could have broken this story 2 months ago.

Anonymous said...

If Jr. Was only about his last name then Kerry Earnhardt would be racing and his son Jeffery Earnhardt would not be having trouble getting a ride. Jr is liked for himself not his name.

At least give Danica a chance full time. She may run up front with experience or she may not. Time will tell. She deserves a chance just like anyone else.


allisong said...

I'm going to try to keep my remarks away from Danica's talent and confine them to the way the media covers this.

I don't get why you think this is going to be some kind of game-changer for the NNS. Sure she has fans, but so did Ricky Carmichael, and so did JPM when they came to NASCAR. Where are those fans now? If they sampled the racing product, they didn't stay, evidently. I predict the same thing with Danica. An initial ratings bump, and then she becomes just another racer (as she should be, BTW).

Those in the media who think that women race fans should all be over the moon because she's coming to NASCAR (allegedly) couldn't be more wrong. It's like women in politics. If my personal politics run toward liberal causes, I'm surely not going to vote for Sarah Palin just because she's a woman. As a race fan, I will like or dislike Danica based on criteria other than her gender, the same as I would for any other driver coming to NASCAR, and it's my sincerest hope that that would be how the media treats her.

Anonymous said...

Danica is interesting and I hope she does well although I am not a fan of hers. ESPN did a great job Monday and I think maybe their biggest mistake is putting Edwards in the booth. I really do not think there will be Danica overload but there will certainly be Edwards overload.

GA Red

Dot said...

Danica has run better this year than last. My fear is that BSPN will turn this into "all Danica all the time" coverage. As long as they spread the coverage evenly among all the drivers, it won't be so bad.

Maybe she'll hog the spotlight away from whoever Cup driver is in the NW series next year. At least she'll be the regular. A note to the NW drivers, drive near her to get TV coverage.

On a side note, I find it interesting that she's in the Montreal race. Road courses aren't her specialty.

Anonymous said...

Unless nascar changes the rules to the benefit of the NNS regulars and espn changes their coverage to the benefit of the NNS regulars, Danica will be a contributing factor to the demise of NNS. Here's hoping. MC

Theodore said...

I'm going to miss booing her at the Indy 500, I know that much.

Vicky D said...

I think this is great news.

Original Crank It Up said...

Thank the Lord. Mike Joy and
Larry doing most of the Speed tv
qualifying coverage. Do it every
race Mr Speed Channel.

Anonymous said...

No offense taken, Mate!

But no amount of high $$ equipment is going to help her in Nascar. I predict she'll not have even a top 10 finish by July 4 2012.
Bet you a cheeseburger!!


Damon said...

LOL Theodore, 2 top 5's and 6 top 10's in 7 starts at Indy. Keep booing.

Anonymous said...

JD said: "It comes just in the nick of time as the TV ratings show exactly what trying to promote Reed Sorenson vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the championship contenders will get. The answer is not a lot of eyeballs."

Stenhouse and Sorenson won't get any more eyeballs between Danica, Kyle, Keslowski, and any of the other cup teams, they will still be 3rd story line. I think the Danica factor will burn out before mid season and ESPN will be in the same sinking boat. The diamond has been worn thin. None of the edges are sharp, it's a dull reminder of a horrible relationship, and it on it's way to the pawn shop.

Spencer said...

where does everybody think she will raise NW to greener pastures?
look at indy to what it was before her to what it is now

larry said...

Now, if we can just get the Cup drivers to stay away from the "little league" races, maybe we will see some real competition.

I forget which analyst called it the little league when trying to denigrate Patrick's efforts. But the big bullies will still come down to whip the low budget teams and tell us how great they are.

Vicky D said...

Can you imagine Daytona's SpeedWeeks? Wow all Danica all of the time. I really want her to succeed I think that's what the NW series needs plus not as many cup drivers in it each and every week. JD did you mention if Marty Reid will still be doing the broadcasts?

52 yr. fan said...

Does her contract protect her when she finishes ahead of Junior and Tony in Cup???

KoHoSo said...

What bothers me about the whole thing of Danica moving to NASCAR full-time is that this is another huge step away from having the best drivers in a series toward seeing the best marketers and pretty faces.

Don't get me wrong...I am not saying that Danica cannot develop into a good stock car driver (although I admit to having strong doubts). The problem is that there are good drivers out there being passed over because they are not seen as having potential crossover "star power."

I guess I'm old fashioned, but I'd rather see the most deserving drivers and have them sent to Dale Carnegie and charm school later rather than having it the other way around. But, such is modern America and why I find myself becoming less and less interested in NASCAR as each week goes by because I feel less and less like I am getting a quality and honest product.

Kathy16 said...

I used to wonder why certain drivers never seemed to get that call to move up, and I realized that part of it was that they were just unappealing on TV; either their looks or their speech, whatever...which isn't fair, but then, it's been that way for a long time in some activities. But along comes a Brad Keselowski and proves me wrong (no offense to Brad or his fans, but the dude is just homely.) So it can happen if you have enough talent or the right relatives (the Dillon boys are odd looking, but they have 'connections'...)

But to those pooh poohing Danica because of her less than stellar record in the IRL...tell me how many races/championships her teammates have won. And she's hardly responsible for the shabby condition of the IRL, they screwed that up long before she got there. Just saying...I don't think Tony Stewart is an idiot, I think he must've seen *some* glimmer of talent or he would not have agreed to it, sponsor or no. We won't really know until she has more time to go at it. I agree that I'd rather see someone like Chrissy Wallace get a shot--but Danica mania might actually bring in potential sponsors for someone like her too. But I will say, Randy Pemberton came off as an idiot saying there's a reason why women aren't in the NFL, NBA etc. I think we all understand that height and weight are going to make far more of a difference in those sports than *driving a car*, which is much more of an endurance sport, which women are well suited for. Even Bootie Barker made the point that he doesn't really think drivers are 'athletes' in the true sense of the word (and you might add golfers, bowlers, archers, and many others...) Driving requires a different skill set; yes, if your power steering goes out upper body strength could be an issue...but so can sensitivity to carbon monoxide (Stewart) and lack of working out. I'm sure all of these things will be hashed and rehashed by the networks...but when it gets too much (anything with Kyle Busch last weekend) I just turn the channel.

Darcie said...

I read a comparison between Danica in Indy cars/Nascar and other drivers who made the jump to Nascar. Look at recent attempts by Indy drivers to make it in Nascar. Hornish had won numerous Indy car races and, I believe, three championships. Franchitti won the Indy 500 twice and the championship three times. Neither of them did diddly squat in Nascar. JP Montoya was successful in Indy cars, but is mostly mid pack or worse in Nascar, despite being in good equipment. There are others who've tried, and failed miserably in Nascar, after finding some success in Indy Car. Of course there's Tony Stewart who came from Indy cars and succeeded in Nascar, but he's the exception.

Now we have Danica. She's not been at all successful in Indy cars, with the exception of winning a fuel mileage race, with a watered down field, in Japan. This season and last, she has been nothing but a back marker, running in 16th or lower place. Now, she's coming to Nascar, as the darling of the media. I can see it now. Danica running in 25th place, and the cameras trained only on her. It remains to be seen if she'll succeed in Nascar, but many, even within Nascar, have their doubts, myself included. I just don't think she's Nascar material, not only on the track, but off it as well. I think her petulant attitude will not play well, in the long run, with Nascar fans. And then, there's the length of the racing year in Nascar. She's been used to, what, maybe 15 races a year in Indy Car? Will she be able to handle the 36 races a season in Sprint, when she moves there full time? Only time will tell.

get smart said...

"" Sorry about that " When your
crew cheif says that .. we know
that it is possible that he is
living in the past )
To which I say " Wud U Believe"