By admin | June 22, 2011
By Richard Allen
There has been no shortage of â€˜Silly Seasonâ€™ rumors to race through the NASCAR garage area and beyond over the past week or so. Two of the biggest pieces of information have involved the Fox television network and Team Red Bull.
It has been reported that Fox, a television partner of NASCAR since 2001, is considering moving as many as six regular season Sprint Cup races to the Speed network. Speed has previously shown events such as the Sprint All Star Race and the Gatorade Duels on the cable station. The move may not be made until 2014 or later, if at all.
Just this past season, the ABC network moved most of the Chase for the Championship races from the main network to cable sports provider ESPN. The result was that significantly fewer households watched the playoff events than in the years in which those races were shown on the primary network.
If Fox does indeed follow the lead of ABC and move races to a cable only network, there is no way to put a positive spin on this for NASCAR. This is especially true after the results posted by ESPN last year.
Likely, it will be said that the racing related network will offer enhanced coverage and expanded pre and post race interviews and specials. However, the simple fact of the matter is that not nearly as many households have Speed as Fox. That fact acknowledged, this will be viewed as what amounts to a downgrade to minor league television status.
Fox Broadcasting Network is owned by News Corporation, which also owns Speed. While NASCAR and its fans will lose out if such a move takes place, it is News Corp. that stands to gain. Having regular season Sprint Cup race air on Speed would allow for strong arm tactics by the parent company against cable providers to put the racing channel on the basic packages of each cable region.
The bottom line in the possible move of Sprint Cup races to yet another cable only network is not good for the sport. It also further shows, much like so many empty seats in places like Michigan and Bristol this year, that support for the sport is eroding. If a major network were making big profits from the airing of races, they would never consider such a move.
And at almost the same time as the Fox/Speed rumors began to circulate, it was reported that Team Red Bull is planning to terminate its NASCAR operations at the end of the 2011 season. The team currently fields cars for drivers Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne.
Just like in the case of the possible television moves, there is no way to put a positive spin on the loss of a fully sponsored two car team for NASCAR. There have been a number of reasons mentioned as to why Red Bull might be about to make such a move. No matter what the cause, a sport that has seen its number of teams dwindle in recent years will now see more defection.
Even if reports are true that other investors may be able to salvage the remains of the Red Bull team, the fact is a profitable company has willingly chosen to leave the sport.
The last few days a couple of very bad pieces of news have come out. When the so called rubber meets the road(or track), there is no way to spin these stories in a positive way.
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