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Despite the red-hot three-man championship chase, NASCAR's TV ratings down again

  Did Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, demoralize his own team by 'benching' his pit crew and bringing over Jeff Gordon's crew? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   Fallout from Sunday's wild Texas 500 continues, as Denny Hamlin rolls into Arizona with a slim points lead over Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick with two races remaining in their three-man battle for the Sprint Cup championship.

   -- Despite the amazing action during Sunday's 3-1/2-hour race in Fort Worth, TV ratings were again down.
   ESPN's live telecast earned a final national household coverage rating of 2.9 (that's 4,845,820 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company). That compares to last year's race on ABC which earned a 3.7 rating.

That's a drop of 20 percent over last fall's chase 500, and that's in line with this fall's major decline in TV viewers, for whatever reason. The highest rated chase event this season was Talladega's 3.1, which itself was down 25 percent from the 2009 race.
    The Saturday Texas Nationwide race, with its controversial finish between winner Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, pulled a 1.1 TV rating on ESPN2. That's about average for this year's Nationwide tour events.

    -- Johnson will once again have Jeff Gordon's over-the-wall crew for Sunday's Phoenix race. Crew chief Chad Knaus benched Johnson's own crew midway through the Texas race, a stunning move that rival crew chief Mike Ford, Hamlin's team boss, says probably cost Johnson the championship.
  Knaus conceded "It's a difficult decision for sure. There's always emotions involved."
  But he tried to downplay the implications: "The thing everybody has to realize is when we set up this team it was a one team situation.
   "We've had crew members from the 24 pit the 48, we've had crew members and mechanics on the 48 pit the 24.
   "We set it up at the beginning of the year that we were going to have five or six tire changers, we were going to have three or four jackmen for the two teams, and that was explained to the guys at the beginning of the year, and everyone understands that, and that's the way it is."
   This particular shakeup, Knaus said, was "a collective decision," which also included Steve Letarte, Gordon's crew chief. "there's a lot of positive in it, to be honest," Knaus insists.
   One twist: Johnson and Knaus have won 12 tour races since Gordon's last Sprint Cup win.
   -- Kyle Busch was slapped with a $25,000 fine and probation for making an obscene gesture, caught on an in-car TV camera at Texas.
   "I accept NASCAR's penalty and realize what I did during Sunday's race at Texas was inappropriate," Busch said.
    "Even in my relatively short time here in NASCAR, it's pretty obvious to everyone that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Sometimes that passion has allowed me to find that little something extra I needed to win, and other times it's made me cross the line. Sunday at Texas was one of those days.
   "I lost my cool, plain and simple. It's not acceptable, and I know that. I apologize to NASCAR, its fans, all the partners who support Joe Gibbs Racing, and all the people who work so hard to give me a racecar that's capable of winning races every week. All of those people deserve better from me, and I owe it to them to keep my emotions in check."

That swapping of crews was

That swapping of crews was one of the lowest things Knaus/Hendrick could have done. There is no bigger slap in the face than telling someone that "we have someone better to take your place". This might not be totally shocking if it was a mid-pack car, but this "team" has won 4 straigt championships. I'm sure some of the members might be different from the past 4 teams, but you don't completely strip them of their confidence. Most of the things I've seen Knaus do have been really calculating and tactful. This was a complete 180. Maybe the crew will do the same thing to him next time he makes a bad call from the top of the box.

i agree. bad move by chad.

i agree. bad move by chad. cant believe rick didnt overrule him. looks bad all the way around. the crew was good enough for six wins this season and the points lead....you ask me, that move sunday was a choke-job...imho.

The highest rated chase race

The highest rated chase race was the Charlotte race on ABC which was slightly down year over year from last years ABC broadcast. The confusion people have with the change to ESPN from ABC not being directly responsible with the lower ratings is still extremely mind blowing to me. The ratings year over year are all down slightly with the exception of the switch in networks

you're right; i should have

you're right; i should have been clearer: talladega, with a 3.1, was the highest rated chase race on espn; charlotte (saturday night), with a 3.2, was the highest rated chase race overall.
so explain 'the confusion;' i think i understand what you're saying, but amplify some, please.

these are my three most recent stories on nascar-on-tv:


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