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NASCAR's Nationwide TV ratings up...and Daytona is already setting the 2012 Cup calendar

 Kasey Kahne, here at Sonoma in 2010, has been a strong runner at the California road course (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   The pressure is on for NASCAR's Team Red Bull, and how well the crews of Jay Frye's two drivers, Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers, react to this week's news that the owner-sponsor is looking to reshape its involvement for 2012 should be easy to read -- because Kahne, remember, has become one of the sport's top road racers, at least at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway, the past few years.

   Kahne won at Sonoma in 2009, and he took the pole in 2008 and 2010.
   As the Sprint Cup season nears the midway point, Kahne sits 19th in the standings, Vickers sits 24th.

    Meanwhile it appears that NASCAR executives are moving into high-speed to get the sport back in gear:
    -- Dover International Speedway announced Thursday that NASCAR has moved its spring Cup race date back to June for 2012 -- June 3rd. The fall Cup race will be Sept. 30th.
   Dover's current mid-May date, before school is out, has been seen as not a positive for crowds.
   "Fans have been asking for a return to our June date, and we appreciate NASCAR's help to meet their requests," Denis McGlynn, Dover track boss, says.
   And McGlynn and NASCAR should be get some early indication about the impact of the change -- tickers for the 2012 spring race go on sale in just two weeks.

   And NASCAR's Brett Jewkes, the new marketing head, confirms sports' executives will be meeting with team owners and drivers over the next week to discuss the state of the sport and how to improve things. NASCAR has held such meetings on and off for two years now.
   The meetings will include sharing of several strategic reviews over the past 15 months. NASCAR officials will be laying out plans on new programs.
    The meetings are to continue through early August.
    The NASCAR-owners-drivers meetings come amid reports that NASCAR's TV partner Fox is looking to join ABC is moving many of its Cup races off the main network and on to cable, which would likely lead to a significant drop in NASCAR viewers.
   However Fox reported an increase in viewers for its February-June part of the season. And ABC reports its telecast of Saturday's Nationwide race at Michigan earned a 1.5 rating, averaging 2,228,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company; that compares to last year's August Nationwide race at Michigan which drew a 1.2 on ESPN.
   ABC-ESPN reports Nationwide ratings are at a two-year high, averaging a 1.5 U.S. rating -- up 20 percent from this point last year and up 13 percent from this point in 2009.
   The meetings also come following a series of controveries: the Kevin Harvick-Kyle Busch flap at Darlington, the smaller-than-expected crowds at Dover, an unexpectedly uneventful All-Star race at Charlotte, a series of gas-mileage finishes at Charlotte, Chicago, Kansas City and Pocono, the Richard Childress-Kyle Busch flap at Kansas City, a 'secret' penalty assessed Ryan Newman, and last weekend's curious oil-pan incident involving Joe Gibbs three teams at Michigan.


look out reading this tells

look out reading this tells me kahne is going to win and soon. why do i say this well redbull says their pulling out after this season and nascar is sweating. reminds me of a few years back chevy drivers were struggling saying they needed more front downforce to be able to turn their cars and then chevy said they were pulling out some sponsor money next thing you know jimmy has the front downforce he needs and he's winning almost every race in the chase then the championship. problem nascar solved. then again my bet is that nascar will secretly let redbull know that they need to sponsor kahne at hendricks next year and promises the wins will come with the richest owner in nascar who has shown that he knows how to spread the money to get what he wants.

excellent point: kasey would

excellent point: kasey would have had a good finish at sonoma, if not for jpm (wonder what that was all about, contract talks?). and i like BV; he can make things happen, if things are right, and he knows he's under the gun (not a good sign for here at daytona, where i'm predicting a heckava lot of crashes). dont think hendrick could handle redbull, because of amp. but i'm thinking red bull is in play. RB wants nascar, regardless of what they may say in press releases. i think RB wants Carl. so i'd watch for JR to pull a fast one (if steve newmark can do the job...).

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In the case of Dover, I think

In the case of Dover, I think the 2012 calendar also played a role. Unlike the last few years, there is only one weekend between Mother's Day (Darlington) and Memorial Day (Coke 600) and of course that is All-Star weekend. I can't help but also wonder if this is a subtle (or not so subtle) ultimatum to Dover that one of their two dates could be in play in the next few years.

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