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Why are NASCAR's TV ratings still down? Fox' David Hill says he doesn't know


Why isn't NASCAR getting better TV ratings? The product on the track at Talladega and Richmond was great, but the ratings were still down. Time to ask some hard questions. (Photo: Fox)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Facing a continuing slump in NASCAR's TV ratings, Fox' sports boss David Hill took an hour's worth of questions from fans Friday, and he offered a few interesting observations and opinions….but no answers or ideas on how to reverse the slump.
    One fan said the new car-of-tomorrow has hurt racing and asked if Fox had discussed the decline in the quality of racing because of the car-of-tomorrow with NASCAR?
   Hill disagreed with the premise: "There's always two views on any innovation in any sport. If you talk to Chad Knaus (crew chief for three-time champion Jimmie Johnson), I doubt he has any problems with the car-of-tomorrow."
   Is the Fox on-air crew – Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond -- getting stale and tedious?
   Hill: "I never thought I'd hear the term stale and tedious applied to our broadcast crew. I'm afraid, with all due respect, I'll have to disagree with you."
    Has NASCAR peaked in popularity?  
   Hill: "Heavens above, no. I think the growth we've seen this decade is only going to continue unabated."
   Why the decline in NASCAR TV ratings?
   Hill: "Our ratings were up last year, and down this year. I've been in the business way too long to try and figure out why. I just go with the flow."
    What does Hill have to say to all those viewers who complain that the NASCAR cartoon character 'Digger' is too childish and a useless part of the show?  "Tough.
   "The little furry guy is a huge hit. I see Digger and Annie tee-shirts not only at NASCAR races but malls and airports.
    "Digger lives."
    Hill said he would have preferred to sign a contract with NASCAR to cover the full stock car tour: "I'd really love to do that, as would we all. When we finish at Dover, it's a total bummer.
    "But this was the package NASCAR offered us, and that's that."
    Hill also said he'd like to see NASCAR put Rockingham back on the Cup tour: "I would love to see racing return to Rockingham. I loved that track."
    And Hill said if NASCAR could create an international element – "a team from Germany, a team from Italy, a team from France" – "I think that would be truly exciting, and would blow by Formula One as a world sporting event."

Time to shoot the silly gopher? Fox' David Hill loves this gimmick, even if fans don't (Photo: Fox)


So what was the point of a

So what was the point of a Q&A session with the fans when it seems all David Hill did was defend the status quo?

Either Mr. Hill has been

Either Mr. Hill has been drinking too much of the NASCAR Kool-Aid or he doesn't have a clue. It's not just one thing that's caused the ratings to go downhill, it's a combination of things. The COT has made racing boring both from a competition standpoint and it's visual impact with all the cars looking the same like an IROC car. DW, Larry Mac, Chris Myers, and Jeff Hammond are very stale. Not to mention the constant shilling of NASCAR and team sponsors plus DW's personal agenda of Toyota, his brother, and his "June Bug" being shoved down fans folks week after week. The continuous sponsor plugs are extremely annoying, whether it's the Exlax Move of the Race or the Damp Energy Stink roofcam shot.Then throw in the annoying animated character that is well suited for 3 year olds and DW. Then there's the mandated coverage that Brian France said the networks will have during the Media Tour a couple years ago. The stories will be Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing, Dale Jr.,Hendrick Motorsports, and the Diversity Program driver. Anything other than those is rarely covered or mentioned. Instead of seeing 43 cars during the race, we're lucky to see 12 unless there's a major wreck ala Talladega.I think Mr. Hill needs to take a long, hard look at what the fans are saying and make some changes if he wants to keep the ratings from slipping even further.

Four words why I don't watch

Four words why I don't watch much anymore: Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs.

Mike, After reading the


After reading the transcript of the conversation, it showed me that Mr Hill has been sitting in his oval office way to long. He doesn't care what the fans think. He doesn't care about racing as long as its making him a comfortable living. How can he sit there and ignore it all?

"Stale in the booth". I agree with him there, they are not stale- they are a bunch of clowns. If the booth could just detail the race to us and leave their opinions to themselves. Sure you want to hear their insight to some things, but they just squak to hear themselves speak. Its annoying and there has not been one race this year that I have not turned the volumn down or off!

His summary about only showing the top 10 was SHOCKING to me. Its okay with him? There are 43 racers with 43 sets of fans- with 43 sets of sponsors. If you want sponsors to support his TV station, then he needs to concider showing them. Then sponsors would concider sponsoring cars- KNOWING they would be seen.

He turns his head from fans, sponsors and then wonders why ratings are down? If I can't see my driver, whats the point of me turning it on? And thats why I don't watch it Mike! Thats why I use trackpass and live timing. I can watch and listen to my racers. The racing isn't up front with the big teams anyways. Its the ones in the middle to back of the pack that are "RACING"!

And someone please bring back JJ Yeley.

what is wrong is the people

what is wrong is the people in charge. when all i have read clearly indicates that the stupid digger cartoon is hideous he still lives on and is not going anywhere.nobody likes the COT but yet it stays. the track dates and venues change and tradition goes out the window but yet no changes made. with current management(king brian)this series has jumped the shark. international????? i think that has been done before, IROC,and i don't remember any one clamoring for that to return.why can anyone in charge see the writing clearly on the wall.return to what you were and maybe the fans will return if it's not to late already.casual fans are just that and when the new fad comes along they are gone.but when you start to turn off die hard fans well the conclusion is inevitible.wake up nascar.

Mr. Hill needs to look back

Mr. Hill needs to look back at what made raceing popular back in the '80's. All he needs to do is watch ESPN's Classic reruns. What did they do, they showed "RACING". Two non-diased guys in the booth a couple of pit reporters. No cut up car, few people care about how a car is built. No hollywood hotel. No rodent trying to hide from the cars. No hawking of NASCAR day pins. No selling of bricks for a museum. NO clowns trying to make us laugh in the booth. ESPN televised RACING. One can still get good racing from MRN and PRN.
Mr. Hill just need to show us racing from 43 cars.

I emailed a question to David

I emailed a question to David Hill asking for a new Pre-pre-race show, hosted by Darrell Waltrip, called "PIMP MY GOPHER".

The fact that NASCAR ever

The fact that NASCAR ever became the second most watched sport in this country is an incredible accomplishment when you consider that it's nothing more than cars going around in circles. No one thought 10 years ago that NASCAR would ever be more watched than the NBA or MLB and yet that's exactly what's happened. The hardcore fans are going to watch regardless, just like hardcore fans in any sport will, but can you truly say that NASCAR is any more exciting to watch than hockey? I can't and yet hockey is lucky to be on tv at all while NASCAR is still going strong even with this current dip. I'm a hardcore fan. I like everything about NASCAR, not just what's shown on Sundays. But the casual fans aren't like that and for Fox and Brian France to be able to attract an audience as big as they have is remarkable and should be applauded.

Are they perfect? Of course not. Who is? They made some unpopular decisions but so has everyone. Do you agree with every decision that Roger Goodell, the head of the most popular sport in this country, has made? Doubt it. You guys may complain about moving the Southern 500 from Labor Day weekend, or eliminating Rockingham and North Wilksborough from the schedule altogether but that doesn't even come close to having the Super Bowl in London which may happen as early as 2014. Just think of how unpopular that is going to be. But will people stop watching the NFL because of that? Of course not.

NASCAR has overachieved big time. In my opinion this dip in ratings would have happened regardless of the COT, regardless of the chase and regardless of Digger. People watched NASCAR for a while because it was the "in" thing to do. Ratings are down now because some people have realized that in the end it's just cars going around in circles and that gets boring after a while if you're just a casual fan. The only way to change that is to turn it into professional wrestling and I don't want to see that happen.

I want to see pure, natural competition. The last thing I want to see is a restrictor plate "race" or a demolition derby every single week. Pure, natural competition is about teams and drivers working on their cars trying to get them faster than the other guys and running as fast as they can to the checkers without wrecking. That's not to say that the fastest guy wins every week in those conditions but that's what real racing is. It's not equalizing the field so there is side by side "racing" 11 rows deep every single lap with 50-60 lead changes, or guys playing bumper cars with each other every single lap. If that's the stuff that you want to see, if that's what entertains you then you're not a real race fan.

Unfortunately a lot of people want to see just that. That's why Daytona and Talladega are the most popular tracks now, and that's why the old Bristol was so popular. Because people don't want to see real racing, they just want to see a show. So it's no wonder that Fox came up with the Digger character because they were just trying to play to the masses. They didn't care about the actual racing because they don't think that most fans care about the racing. They just wanted to add to the "show" because they thought that's what fans wanted, a show. If fans continue to ask for a show on the track then NASCAR and Fox will continue to think that fans want a show off the track as well.

The best way for NASCAR to go back to the way that it used to be is not to rebel against things like Digger but rebel against the restrictor plate shows and the demolition derby stuff. Let NASCAR know that you want to see pure, natural competition, not an artificial, manufactured, production. Rebel against the mystery debris cautions. Instead of hating on the COT altogether, just tell NASCAR that you want the teams to be able to adjust on the cars a lot more than they're able to do. I think the COT would be just fine if NASCAR didn't put all of the teams in a very small box when it comes to working on it. Show your support for tracks like Iowa and Rockingham. If more people attend the events currently held at those tracks now, then that will give Rockingham an incentive to upgrade its facilities and Iowa an incentive to add more seats. And if people throw their support to those tracks instead of Daytona and Talladega then that will hopefully send a message to NASCAR as to what type of racing fans really want to see.

But its going to take actions, not words, to change things. Attendance was low at Rockingham and the facilities were old which is why it's no longer on the schedule. People will have to do more than just voice their complaints with NASCAR. They have to back up their words with actions. As long as Talladega and Daytona are sellouts, then NASCAR is going to continue to have the impression that people just want a show. As long as places like Rockingham and Iowa have low attendance for their events then NASCAR has no incentive to add them to the schedule in favor of California or Pocono or New Hampshire.

But regardless of the things that we don't like, I think that fans should be very fortunate that NASCAR is at the point that it is. Because as much as we complain, myself included, about the way things are, they could be worse. Things could still be the way that they were prior to 1979, when all the races were on tape delay. At least now they're all broadcast live and most of them are on network television. And David Hill was one of the people responsible for that. Without him NASCAR wouldn't be where it is today. So we can complain about stuff like Digger but at least it's better than the alternative.

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