By admin | June 5, 2014
By Richard Allen
Yes NASCAR fans, it’s that time again. It’s the time for some things to change in the Sprint Cup Series and for some things to stay the same.
Among those things that will be changing is the television network covering the sport. TNT will replace Fox as the primary broadcaster of NASCAR’s top division over the next few weeks. To some racing enthusiasts that is good news while others regard the switch as a negative.
In a recent poll conducted among my Twitter followers, 57% of fans voted that they wanted Fox to cover more races while the other 43% declared that they were glad that Fox’s time had come to an end. Several of those who were glad it was time for a network change indicated that much of their reasoning for voting that way was due to commentating brothers Darrell and Michael Waltrip.
Television ratings have been down, in some cases sharply, for most NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season. TNT is a cable network which does not reach into as many homes as Fox so viewership is not likely to get a boost in the coming weeks.
Further, this will be TNT’s last season of covering NASCAR as a new television contract goes into effect in 2015. This network has often been criticized by fans for excessive showing of commercials during its NASCAR broadcasts. With this being their final go around with the sport, it’s would seem likely that there will be as many or more interruptions as in years gone by.
One thing that seems to be staying the same, or at least reverting back to previous norms, is the dominance of Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had gone winless through the first twelve events of the 2014 Sprint Cup season. Suddenly, however, he has returned to form by scoring two consecutive wins in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and last Sunday’s race in Dover. Not that the six-time champion has any bad tracks, but the schedule is now pointing toward some of his more favorable venues, which does not bode well for the competition.
The trouble for NASCAR, its tracks and its television partners is that recent developments do not necessarily bode well for them either. Even with all his success, Johnson has never been a huge fan favorite in the way other multiple-time series champions like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt were. But at the same time, he has never really fit the role of an arch villain either.
For whatever reason, there’s just very little, comparatively speaking, about Johnson that inspires people in terms of racing fandom.
During the most recent off season, NASCAR instituted changes to its championship format that the sanctioning body hoped would generate greater interest in the sport. And that may indeed happen for the final Chase for the Sprint Cup deciding race later this year in Miami. However, TV ratings have taken a negative turn, and from the looks of the grandstands in Dover, attendance isn’t skyrocketing either.
When the factors of a smaller television network and the re-emerging dominance of a driver who seems to not stir the passions of most fans are taken into consideration, it would seem that NASCAR could be in for a summer lull.
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