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TV ratings for NASCAR's championship playoff opener don't look promising

  Maybe if the Sprint Cup championship kicked off on Labor Day weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Brickyard 400, TV fans might be more enthusiastic? (Photo: IMS)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Okay, maybe NOW it's time for NASCAR to rethink this championship chase thing – if TV ratings from ABC's Sunday afternoon telecast of the first race of the championship playoffs aren't much better than the initial overnight ratings: a very weak 2.5, reported Monday.
   Typically NASCAR's final weekly nationals do come up, when the votes from the provinces come in. So there's some hope.
   Still, there appears to be something amiss here.
   -- Richmond's regular season finale pulled a 3.5 rating, mediocre at best, particularly for the playoff cut event.
   -- And the Loudon overnights of 2.5 aren't a trend in the right direction, particularly considering the fullcourt PR press NASCAR threw at this thing last week in New York City.
   Maybe if the race hadn't started at 2:15 p.m. ET, it might have drawn more viewers.
   Maybe if NASCAR's drivers hadn't gotten sucked into that silly pie-throwing contest…..
   The kicker here – Sunday's New York-Dallas game drew historical TV overnight ratings of 16.5.
   That means maybe about four million viewers for Mark Martin's Sunday win…while the NFL game had about 24 million viewers.
   On NBC. That's the network that had NASCAR in the fall, as counterprogramming while it was out of the NFL. And when it came time for contract renewal, NASCAR, to entice NBC, came up with the championship chase, rezeroing the top 10 'regular' season teams for a 10-race chase.
   Still when it came time to pick between the NFL and NASCAR, NBC went with the NFL.
   Where are all the NASCAR TV fans?
   Well, maybe all those disgruntled Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans are having their revenge.
    Actually the trend in NASCAR the past two years has been generally down, after more than a dozen years of a rising tide.  
   Overall this year the Cup tour ratings have been down some eight percent over last year (not counting rain postponements).
   Perhaps a point to consider – the June race here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway pulled a 4.1 rating on TNT, with about 5.5 million viewers. That was about on par with the June 2008 Loudon race.
   But starting the playoffs in the middle of New Hampshire – as great as this place is, and as hard as Jerry Gappens and Bruton Smith's people worked at it – and in late September, well, maybe that's not the right formula.
   And it's not like this is all new to NASCAR execs.
   This 'chase' debate isn't new.
   But maybe the sport's execs are simply satisfied with mediocrity here.

It's not New Hampshire; it's

It's not New Hampshire; it's the fanbase's rejection of the playoff format. They could run the first Chase race at Talladega (usually the Chase race with the highest ratings) and the ratings won't go up. The fanbase knows the Chase format is a foolish contrivance that has made racing only about points instead of fighting for the win.

"But maybe the sport's execs are simply satisfied with mediocrity here." After talking to Jim Hunter Sunday morning and his defense of the Chase format, I get that impression.

Don't get too analytical over

Don't get too analytical over this, Mike. football (both college and NFL) is king in this country right now, and the ratings bear that out. Go against football and you lose.

It's not a Chase thing, it's a football thing.


Ever think the declining

Ever think the declining ratings might be an indictment of the mediocre job done by EESPN? Maybe it would help if the giant brains from Bristol let the guys in the booth look out the window to call the race rather than having to work off what the geniuses in the truck decide is important?

Now that NASCAR is playing

Now that NASCAR is playing with the "big boys", shouldn't they realize that the NFL is planning an "coup" on them, ratings wise? Do you really think the NY Jets and New England Patriots game was a fluke scheduling program while they were racing in Loudon?

Case in point: This weekend, the Cup race is in Dover. The three largest metro areas surrounding Dover, Baltimore, Philly and NY/NJ are having HOME games, all starting at 1:00pm. Where do you think the TV interest will lie with the viewers in these areas, not to mention all the other East coast NFL games, starting at 1pm also.

There are several things

There are several things here.

First, the football games started at 1:00. Nascar started the race in the middle of the football game. Not Good

Next, the races are way too long. It's like watching the NBA. There's no point in tuning in until the final quarter - or last ten laps.

The way the Chase is handled is really stupid. It's just the last ten races of the season. Kick it off at Daytona and we might have something. NASCAR really needs to think of how a real Chase might be handled. It's got to be more than just the last ten races of the regular season.

Finally, too many teams are now using the regular season as an extended testing session. Jimmy Johnson has spent the whole season testing parts and set-ups for the Chase. The Chase has people points racing the entire season.

There's a reason it's called NAPCAR


The poor ratings are a result

The poor ratings are a result of several things:

1. the poor racing that the ugly car puts on
2. boring race tracks -- yes, NH is a boring flat track - just like Indy.
3. terrible TV coverage for the past several years. Show the racing, not whatever "script" TV thinks needs to be covered. Terrible PXP by ESPN.
4. Chase, chase, chase, "if the race ended now".

I fell asleep trying to watch the Richmond race. I was at NH and almost fell asleep in the stands during the first 100 laps. The action did pickup after that, but except for the fake excitement produced by the double file restarts, there really wasn't that much racing and passing going on.

Fix the ugly car so that it is a raceable car, get the right tires that work for it -- that should have been done before this car was EVER put on the track, what idiot didn't think of that one? Get someone in the booth who can actually CALL the PXP -- ESPN has Bestwick sitting right there and they go with Dr. Boring? Show fans the RACE -- not one car shots, not what ESPN wants to be the story, but the race and call that one. I listen to races on the radio so I know what the heck is going on since I would never be able to tell by watching or listening to the tve feed only -- and update the blasted ticker. It was wrong for the last 1/3 of the race.

Fans are falling away from NASCAR in droves. They are tired of the boring racing and the etch a sketch rule book that is applied depending on the whim of whoever.

And while they are at it - redo the schedule. Put races where the weather will work for the fans attending not against them. Make the western swing in one shot twice a year, rather than have the haulers and teams running back and forth across the country multiple times. That would save money and is less stupid.

Finally, shake up the tracks the chase is run on -- if you are only going to have 10 races to decide the championship, then they shouldn't always be the same ones -- as Johnson said in his pre-race interview "these are good tracks for us" go figure, wonder why they've won the championship three years running?

My wife asked me Sunday "What

My wife asked me Sunday "What time does the race start today?". I just replied "I have no clue, not only what time, but I don't have a clue as to what channel.. I'm going to watch the Redskins of Fox at 1pm".. Now, in reality, does the race start at 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, on espn, tnt, abc? I'm not searching, every week, to see where Nascar is hiding..

Now my second beef.. When NFL says it starts at 1, it starts.. When it says it starts at 4, it starts.. Even though I believe it's now 4:15, to allow extra time for the 1 game.. Then on Monday night, it's advertised to start at 8:30, and it starts..

However, I find, after searching, that the race starts at 2pm.. But wait... and wait... and wait.. as a bunch of talking heads bore me to death with facts that I don't give a damn about, Where is the RACE!!! ON TRACK!!! There seems nothing about Nascar anymore to talk about On The Tack.. It's all about the brakes, motors, full-size cars to explain the cars to the fans.. BUT, where is the on-track excitement?.. A bunch of cars that are basically IROC cars, going in circles, and anytime one gets in front, they just pull away..

And I'm a long-time viewer of Nascar, and been to many races.. But I've turned to the NFL.. I know when they start, really start, and I know what station to find them on..

I think the chickens are

I think the chickens are coming home to roost finally. Chase,CoT,Debris cautions with 20 laps to go every time, Lucky Dog, boring racing, terrible telecasts, and on and on and on. Finally longtime fans like me not watching the races I think are finally sending the message that we won't watch this crap anymore. Hell,I read more about Nascar through these venues than I watch on TV. Good luck going forward Nascar, hope you're happy with all the changes!!

While I'm thrilled Mark and

While I'm thrilled Mark and Tony are having a great year, now that football is on I could careless about NAZZZCAR which has been so screwed up in the last several years in an attempt to make Joonyer competitive and to add more revenue to the broadcaster.

The Chase, the Puppy Dog, the 1 or more hour horrific pre-race shows, Digger, competition cautions, race start times all over the map....its a horrible product anymore.

I hate to see NASCAR's demise but with even bigger sponsor issues predicted for 2010 and NASCAR's holy than thou attitude I really don't care anymore.

Don't get me wrong I'll still watch starts and finishes between the months of March and August....

NASCAR needs a new big box

NASCAR needs a new big box office draw desperately; there is only one high impact new star on the horizon and that's Danica so watch for Nascar to do everything to sign her up for next season. Nascar also requires meaningful changes to the chase format (how can there be a top ratings playoff without multiple winner and Mr. Excitement Kyle Busch excluded? Martin, another top race winner, would also have been excluded if one of the lesser drivers had put him in the wall in the last race before the chase and then both top season winners would have been out) and the regular season. The regular season seemed to drag on too this year. Improvements would include shortening races to avoid the boring mid race lull, giving extra points for winning, ensuring that the stars are able to run up front by having fan voting for the second place on the grid beside the pole winner, starting the races at 1pm eastern, reintroducing bonuses for the half way leader, fix up the cars with more downforce to allow for more passing, and give out two free passes instead of one during cautions. The France family needs to start being innovative!

Anonymous, here are the

Anonymous, here are the problems -

1 - Danifraud is manifestly NOT a box-office draw. She is a talentless gimmick. This idea is as stupid as all those talk-show callers in Boston clamoring for the Patriots to re-sign Ty Law and Willie McGinest because "they need leadership." It doesn't work that way.

2 - The Chase format itself is a big part of the problem. Not having Kyle Busch is not why the ratings are terrible - it's the format people reject; they want racing to be about going for the win, not about points and not about an artificial floor of competitors.

3 - Shorter races are not better; they never have been. They're just shorter; they lack enough passing.

4 - Fan voting for who starts where? Fans have no business dictating anything; the sanctioning body is supposed to field the most competitive product possible; fan input has never added anything.

"The France family needs to start being innovative." Why? Innovation has been the rage all decade and it's gotten nothing.


HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. Your getting what you deserve NA$CAR. Bill Jr told you not to change things (if it ain't broke don't fix it), You screwed the whole sport up with your greed. Football is way more interesting to watch than this follow the leader parade lap racing, and worthle$$ "playoff" crap NA$CAR puts on the track these days

I do wonder how NFL ratings

I do wonder how NFL ratings are going to hold up when the blackouts start.

dont the networks buy up the

dont the networks buy up the unsold tickets (at least on big games) to get around the blackout and thus boost ratings? bruton smith wanted to throw a 'blackout' rule into the nascar game, to get that deal, but i think he got shot down.

I'm not aware that the

I'm not aware that the networks routinely buy up tickets to eliminate a blackout, but I have read of community groups and local businesses doing so and I believe it has been rare for blackouts to be close until this year. Yes, the fans' friend, Bruton, wanted to have it both ways - all his. SMI got increased TV revenue when the unified TV deal was negotiated and now that they are having trouble selling tickets he wants to screw area fans with an area blackout - even though the increased rights fees in the last NASCAR contract likely contributed to increased carry charges from EESPN and, thus, higher cable bills for area cable users.

A few years back, Nascar

A few years back, Nascar stated they wanted to model themselves after the NFL, but immediately went into the "no negative publicity" mode. You can't have it both ways. The NFL gets plenty of negative publicity, even by the networks that carry their games. So it comes off as scripted. like wrestling. Even with all the judgement calls in the NFL, it seems to come across as "real" while Nascar seems to be "faked."

NASCAR is being hurt, more

NASCAR is being hurt, more than it may realize, by the wholesale newspaper cutback in NASCAR coverage. The writers local papers, even 'major' papers, send to NASCAR races these days are simply not up to the job, overall, particularly unknowledgeable. But on the other hand NASCAR's TV partners have all these websites with 'news,' but......I used to think, when NASCAR was pushing so hard for big city papers to start covering this sport, that then we would have some hard-hitting coverage....alas, that never really happened any way -- the new york times wimped out from the start (and how long did it take that paper to even discover the jeremy mayfield story -- if mayfield played in the NFL, it would be all over it.)
One of NASCAR's biggest problems, actually, is the length of the season -- if the NFL started in late January and ran through november, people would get pretty tired of it by july. NASCAR has 38 weeks of 'games,' and only four weekends off during the season (and most of those are filled with some nascar action somewhere). that's too much, i might suggest. But nascar and its tv partners aren't going to cut the tour...so it's a matter of repackaging it to make it more marketable -- i think the summer run, June-July-August, a 10 week stretch or so, could be done differently, perhaps all under the lights on Friday nights, or something. then revamp the chase -- please -- with a socko opener. maybe shorten some races. but repeating year after year with the same old same old isnt going to change the dynamic. people are getting bored. (which is one reason JPM's dissing of Sacramento TV stinks). "501" give me a break. how many guys out there in the real world wouldn't work past 5 oclock if they had a job, much less a job paying $6 million or more....i'm a little tired of these prima donnas in nascar. they've lost touch with the grassroots....i still remember the day when richard petty would sit on pit wall after a race and sign autographs until the last fan left.....

As a long time NASCAR fan,

As a long time NASCAR fan, the season isn't too long for me - I happen to love watching racing, even the mediocre way EESPN handles it. I happen to really hate December and January when there is no racing.

You media types like to suggest shortening the season, but without ever explaining how it would really be done. Who are you going to fire? Despite what you imply, NASCAR cannot just pull dates from promoters - at least not without litigation or compensation. Darth Bruton would never do anything for the goood of the sport, much less voluntarily cancel a race date.

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