By admin | February 16, 2009
By Richard Allen
Years ago two guys who called themselves Milli Vanilli sang a song called
â€œBlame it on the rainâ€. Actually they didnâ€™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 â€˜wiggle roomâ€™ 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 arenâ€™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 â€œThe Simpsonsâ€ 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 â€˜Great American Raceâ€™ 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 thereâ€™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 â€œBlame it on the rainâ€ 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.
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