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Blame it on the rain, and the start time

By admin | February 16, 2009

By Richard Allen


Years ago two guys who called themselves Milli Vanilli sang a song called

“Blame it on the rain”. Actually they didn’t sing the song. They did a lot of dancing and pretended to be the ones singing the song.

Well, we have very much the same situation in racing today. NASCAR executives do the dancing while the television networks stand behind the curtain doing the real singing.

Many fans were upset that the Daytona 500 was called so quickly after rain began to fall just after 6:30pm on the east coast. There were less than 50 laps remaining at the time, which was well past the required halfway mark to make the race official. Matt Kenseth was declared the winner at an early hour and everyone was sent to the exits without even so much as an attempt to wait it out and dry the track.

There are several factors to take into consideration.

First, the start time for this race, and most races on the Sprint Cup schedule, was much too late in the day. The command to start engines was given at around 3:30pm. Granted, it can rain at any given time during the day. However, with such a late start time there is little if any ‘wiggle room’ in the event schedule if something unplanned occurs.

The television networks want later starting times to make races a viable option for the entire country. The 3:30 eastern time start, of course, meant it was then after noon on the west coast.

What the television networks and NASCAR aren’t getting is that they are chasing after fans that do not want to be and never will be caught.

Had the Daytona 500 started at a more reasonable hour such as 1:30pm the full 500 miles would have been completed before the rains ever arrived. My guess is that just as many fans in Los Angeles and San Francisco would have watched the race at 10:30 PST as watched it at 12:30 PST.

Another thing to consider is that the Fox network had a full line up of prime time shows slated to air on Sunday night, including an episode of “The Simpsons” which was to be broadcast in HDTV.

For those who might suggest that Fox could have shifted the race to one of its other networks, that would not be likely. They have spent weeks advertising the ‘Great American Race’ to the nation. It would not have looked good to move an event of this magnitude to a small, cable only network. Fox would have looked like they were not giving high enough priority to such a major sporting event.

Perhaps they reasoned it looked better to come out and say that there is nothing anyone can do about the rain and that NASCAR and all involved did the best they could.

Of course, scheduling an earlier start time could have been done. Keith Urban can probably sing just as well at 12:30 as he can at 2:30. And, Digger the gopher probably would not have minded what time his segment aired(Too bad Bill Murray was playing golf on Sunday because there’s a little extermination project he could work on in the television production truck).

Could it be that television network executives pushed the decision makers at NASCAR to make a quick decision and “Blame it on the rain” so as not to interrupt their prime time schedule? We will never hear otherwise, but I think we can draw our own conclusions.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

4 Responses to “Blame it on the rain, and the start time”

  1. tom1194 Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Great article - thanks.

    But guess what here it comes again this weekend - green flag 6:30 ESTor so. Guess who won’t be watching.
    If NASCAR continues to pour salt on the roots it will wither and die.

  2. Martinfan Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve rooted for Mark martin for almost 20 years, and at this point if he weren’t still racing I wouldn’t be watching. I don’t even start watching the race until it’s been on for a good hour and a half so that I can use the DVR to skip over all of the useless commercials and now I don’t go to many races either.

    I want to watch my races on Sunday, not Saturday, and I want them to start at a time in which if I decided to go to the race I could then arrive home before it was 4 AM.

    Once Martin retires, I’m likely done with the WWFs racing division.

  3. DaninOhio Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Great article !! I have been complaining about the start times of the Sunday races ever since NASCAR sold it’s soul to the networks with the tv deal some ten years ago. The majority of Nascar fan base is east of the Mississippi River. Every Sunday daytime NASCAR event should have a 12noon local start time. This way, no matter where you are in the country you assure yourself of utilizing maximum available daylight in case of rain. 4 of the 51 Daytona 500’s have been rain shortened and two of them have happened since Fox took over and bumped the starting time of the race way back. We have been robbed twice in the last 6 years of a great finish all because of Fox and NASCAR’s obsession with the west coast. I myself personally have had two races at Michigan shortened by rain all because the networks started the race so late in the afternoon. If things don’t change soon I won’t be renewing my tickets for the 4 different cup races I attend each year. I have better things to do than wait till 3 or 4 on a Sunday afternoon for a the races to start in the hopes that an extra 20 people in Oregon will tune in to watch with me….Time for some changes at the top NASCAR. Perhaps get some old school thinking in place before you lose what fan base you have left……

  4. Joe Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    I was at the race, the 308, I was disappointed. Nascar maybe can’t start early, but they called it only after 17 minutes. Why not at lap 102 say ok only 50 laps left let’s go boys. Or yes start earlier, but the west coast fans??? In my opinion if Dale Sr. was alive rest his soul was in 2nd place you could bet that that race would of restarted later in the night, why have lights if you can’t use them. I spend the money to watch the 500 not 308.