By admin | September 22, 2012
By Richard Allen
NASCAR instituted the Chase for the Championship after the 2003 Sprint Cup(then Winston Cup and eventually Nextel Cup) season after Matt Kenseth had made the final races of that year a mere formality in terms of who would win the title. It was thought by the top brass of the sport and the television networks who cover it that the guarantee of a close points battle would keep racing relevant as it competed against the all powerful NFL for ratings and advertising dollars.
Apparently that strategy is not working because NASCAR can’t even get itself into a live time slot on a television network devoted(at least for now) solely to the coverage of racing or on the network that has coverage of the final third of the season. On the weekend of the second Chase race at New Hampshire, Sprint Cup qualifying was bumped from live coverage on a Friday afternoon by the Barrett-Jackson Auction on Speed. Then, neither Speed nor ESPN carried the first Sprint Cup practice on Saturday morning.
Speed aired qualifying on a tape delayed basis on Friday night at 10:00pm and showed Formula 1 qualifying on Saturday morning at the time in which Cup practice was taking place.
The only NASCAR programming ESPN offered for the New Hampshire weekend was coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Kentucky on Saturday and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. The sports broadcasting giant offered no qualifying or practice coverage.
NASCAR and its networks continually pound home just how important the Chase is. However, the actions of the networks this weekend are not matching their words. If it were indeed so important, then it seems as though the networks would treat it as such.
Instead, a foreign racing series with drivers many American fans have no attachment to and a car auction in which aging rich men spend far too much money on old cars to impress their trophy wives and girlfriends trumped live racing coverage. (I know I somewhat unfairly categorized both Formula 1 and Barrett-Jackson but I’m making a point.)
The bottom line is that NASCAR’s manufactured points Chase is a gimmick that many fans are not falling for and the network coverage reflects that. If it was working as a tool to draw more fans, television would cover every aspect of racing live because that would be where the advertising money would be.
So sorry, Mr. France. Your Chase is not doing what it is supposed to do. Even ‘racing only’ and ’sports only’ networks recognize that.
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