By admin | May 24, 2011
By Richard Allen
Leading into the Sprint All Star Race it was obvious that the Fox/Speed plan for getting people to watch was to promise an event filled with retaliation and confrontation. Seemingly every promotion featured clips of Kyle Busch barking for his crew to keep him away from Denny Hamlin and Darrell Waltrip exclaiming that it would be a night for getting even amid showers of sparks and crashing cars.
Trouble was, none of that stuff really happened. There was a crash or two over the course of the night but no one got out of their race car delivering drop-kicks or right crosses. There was drama in the sense that pit strategy and adjustments played into the race. And although the final segment did not feature much in the way of side-by-side racing, there had been passing throughout the night in the earlier segments.
But when controversy and blood sport are promised and not delivered, the race will be perceived by many viewers as a letdown. There could have been incredible racing with multiple lead changes throughout the night, but for those who bought the hype that there would be other types of fireworks, nothing else would have mattered very much.
Now keep in mind that most real fans of racing probably knew better going into the event than to buy the Fox/Speed hype. Most folks who watch NASCAR on a regular basis most likely tuned in to watch a race, not a boxing match. However, some casual fans who may only check in on the big events could well have gone into the broadcast thinking they were going to see Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman tackle each other in the garage area after the checkered flag fell or Kevin Harvick return the favor of pushing Kyle Busch’s unoccupied car through the pits.
To those who tuned in for some reason other than racing no doubt went to work on Monday and described to their co-workers how they spent a boring Saturday watching a NASCAR race.
In the long run, the hype that led into the Sprint All Star Race did not help the sport. In exchange for hooking a few temporary, one night viewers, the television network may have turned some who might have otherwise been intrigued off because that which was promised was not delivered.
Ever since NASCAR entered into its ‘big time’ television contract in 2001, this sport has gone through a disturbing pattern of short sighted decision making. Sprint Cup drivers and tracks dominating the lower series’ to gain brief pops in ratings only to see those divisions totally lose their identity, rule changes to fit rare situations that have eroded the fundamental integrity of the sport itself and sidebar issues being hyped over the actually product to gain quick ratings hits have become commonplace.
Of course, television networks cancel new shows after only one or two airings so patience and long term vision may not exactly be their strong suit. NASCAR should not have expected any different from them.
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