TV Times: Is Jeff Gordon Back?
Well I guess we all know who’s become a player once again in the quest to the Sprint Cup Championship! Jeff Gordon’s resurgence at PIR after breaking a 67-race winless streak was amazing. The losing streak could have been due to the fact that Jeff had problems adjusting to the COT.
At last weekend’s go-around at Phoenix, Kyle Busch was nosed out of a “hat trick” by Gordon. Kyle won both the Truck and Nationwide races, and was on track to take the Cup race, too.
It’s an unusual occurrence for a nine-car pileup on a one-mile track. Part of the excitement of racing is that one never knows who will cross that finish line first!
And how about JR breaking into the top ten. It’s been said that JR had similar problems as Jeff Gordon in getting adjusted to the COT and that contributed to his slump.
Immediately after the Cup race, construction equipment moved in to begin a symbolic reconfigured track with progressive banking, which some Cup drivers are not comfortable with. It will negate their playbook with several years of records. We’ve also heard on SPEED’s Wind Tunnel that there isn’t that much excitement about the $5 million that will go to any driver that can win both the Coke 600 and the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Wonder why that is?
After years of declining ratings, NASCAR got a much-needed boost last Monday when the Nielsens showed a 13 percent increase in Daytona 500 viewing. The 8.7 was still significantly below the 2009 numbers (9.2), but still promising for a sport that saw just five slight increases in points-paying races last year. Sunday’s ratings also improved +46% year-over-year in the critical Male 18-34 demographic (3.8 vs. 2.6). Male teen viewing posted a 3.1 rating, nearly doubling last year’s 1.6 and matching the best Daytona 500 rating in six years among Males 12-17. Nielsen estimates 30.1 million people watched at least some small portion of the race.
Here’s the final ratings: The 2011 Daytona 500 earned an 8.2/18 in the metered markets, a +17% boost over last year’s 7.0/14 when the race was interrupted twice by track repair delays. Fast national ratings have already been issued for the Daytona 500, with the race posting an 8.7/20 (15.6 million viewers). Sunday’s 8.7/20 is a +13% gain over last year’s 7.7/16 and the average viewership of 15.6 million is +17% better than last year’s 13.3 million. The Daytona 500 fell into a pattern established the previous weekend by the Bud Shootout and Daytona Qualifying in that it beat 2010′s ratings but fell short of 2009 benchmarks. Sunday’s 8.7/20 is -5% lower than the 9.2/19 that FOX posted for the rain-shortened 2009 Daytona 500. Obviously, NASCAR has a lot of work to do to bring ratings to a higher level. That rating info came from Jayski.com and StockCarGazette.com.
On Sunday of the Daytona 500, track management announced that the 2012 edition of the Daytona 500 will be held a week later on Sunday, 2/26/12, because it’s foreseeable that it’ll be in possible conflict with the National Football League, according to an AP report. Well excuse me, but didn’t I see this coming about eight years ago when I wrote that any NFL expansion of the season would and could conflict with the Daytona 500? At the time, my column created a lot of negativity and controversy. I was criticized because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I strongly felt that if the NFL playoffs expanded due to a number of scenarios, NASCAR would “blink” and change the original mid-February date and go a week later. Guess what, folks? NASCAR “blinked”!
This date change will impact a lot of race fans who own time shares in the Daytona Beach area and take their annual vacations every year around SpeedWeeks. One time share owner that I know is beside himself because he owns the first two weeks of of February time share at the nearby Outrigger Resort in Ormond Beach. “This totally screws the committed race fans that have time shares as compared to the party crowd who just come down for SpeedWeeks,” said Ed Dornig. “That was my 36th Daytona 500.” Dornig and an associate have a weekly racing show at a Greenfield, MA, station.
The traditional date of the Daytona 500 precedes the construction of the Daytona International Speedway. That’s when the event for the then NASCAR Grand National and support classes were held on a combination beach and paved course that utilized South Atlantic Avenue and section of the adjacent beach. The date coincided with a flood tide, due to a full moon, on Saturday night. And then a slack tide when the ocean receded and would be at its lowest ebb on Sunday, thereby enabling the track maintenance crew to prepare the beach section of the track for stockcar racing.
However, there were erosion problems which resulted in on-track problems. In a news report that discussed the old beach course versus the Daytona International Speedway that was built and opened in 1958, the late Bill France, Jr., revealed that there were a number of uncontrollable problems with the old beach course. It was also one of the many reasons that the decision was made to raise enough capital in order to build a permanent venue to host the annual NASCAR events on the Daytona mainland site in an old swamp on Volusia Avenue.
Here’re a few other observations at the recently concluded SpeedWeeks in Daytona: Plenty of tickets were available for all of the races between the track, people selling extras and even the scalpers for various bargain prices. Parking fees usually at the $40 mark were halved to $20. One enterprising fan needed a room for the Wednesday night before the Gatorade Duels at Daytona. He was told it would cost big money for him to stay at a particular Five Star Hotel, yet he offered them 50 bucks, and they took it! There were also plenty of vacancy signs at the majority of the hotels, and one could make a lot of deals once you got by the three and four day minimums blurbs starting at $300 per night. If you haggled you were rewarded. No doubt this big change was the result of the ailing economy. In better times, three years ago, the track uped the ticket prices and the hotels did the same thing. My how time changes things. Nothing stays the same.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series makes its first appearance of the season on ABC this weekend with a 300-mile race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 5. The telecast will begin with NASCAR Countdown at 2:30 p.m. ET, with flag-to-flag coverage of the race at 3 p.m.
Marty Reid will call the action with analysis by Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, and two-time champion crew chief Andy Petree. Two-time champion crew chief Tim Brewer will report from the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage, while pit reporters will be Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch. NASCAR Countdown from the ESPN pit studio will be hosted by Allen Bestwick with analysis by Jarrett and Brad Daugherty, a team owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The studio team will interact with the booth during the telecast of the race.
NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader joins ESPN analyst Ricky Craven and ESPN the Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee as panelists on NASCAR Now’s weekly roundtable discussion program airing Tuesday, March 8, at midnight ET (late Monday night) on ESPN2. Allen Bestwick will host the edition of ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program. Schrader, who has 733 career NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, will be appearing on the program for the first time and will be on the panel numerous times this season.
Mike Massaro hosts half-hour episodes of NASCAR Now airing at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday of this week as well as NASCAR Now’s weekend edition Sunday at 11 a.m. with a preview of that day’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Shannon Spake and Terry Blount will report from Las Vegas with analyst Dale Jarrett.
The critically-acclaimed film on the life and career of former NASCAR star Tim Richmond, part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series from 2010, will re-air on Sunday, March 6, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN Classic. Tim Richmond: To the Limit chronicles the rise and fall of Richmond, one of the top drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the 1980s, who died of AIDS in 1989. Also this week, ESPN Classic re-airs Sportscentury: Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Wednesday, March 2, at 7 p.m.
NASCAR fans looking for an online gathering during ESPN’s telecasts of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now have a place to go on ESPN.com. RacingLive! on ESPN.com is a live blog where fans can engage in debate and discussion with ESPN.com writers and editors during the NASCAR Sprint Cup races. On Sunday, March 6, RacingLive! Las Vegas will kick off to coincide with the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Fans can join ESPN.com’s NASCAR experts in dissecting every aspect of the race live at http://espn.go.com/racing/nascar/. ESPN.com senior motorsports writer Terry Blount will be on-site at Las Vegas to report on the weekend’s action and news.
The opening Grand Prix of the Formula One season in Bahrain has been called off after a wave of anti-government protests in the country forced Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to forfeit the hosting rights to the event. F1 rights holder Bernie Ecclestone admitted last week that the race scheduled for March 13 was in doubt after mainly Shi’ite protesters took to the streets of the capital of Manama to demand political reform. Following Crown Prince Salman’s announcement on Monday, Ecclestone said that no decision had been made on whether the race could be staged later in the year, but the opening Grand Prix of the campaign will now take place on March 27 in Melbourne, Australia.
“At the present time the country’s entire attention is focused on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,” read a statement from Crown Prince Salman. “After the events of the past week, our nation’s priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together.” He continued: “I would like to extend my personal gratitude to Bernie Ecclestone for his support and understanding”. Ecclestone said it was “sad” that Bahrain had withdrawn from the race, but added: “We wish the whole nation well as they begin to heal their country. We look forward to being back in Bahrain soon.”
Bahrain has hosted Formula One races since 2004 at a state-of-the-art US$150 million circuit in the desert south of Manama. It remains unclear whether Bahrain will host a race this season, but the scheduling could be difficult as the packed 2011 calendar had originally been expanded to a record number of 20 races. We hope that Bernie learned a lesson in all of this and he should consider the possiblity of this happening again as he shifts events from the stablized western Europe and North America. We get the feeling that Eccelstone’s first priority is money. Bahrain will not have to forfeit its US$40 million staging fee after calling off the opening Formula One grand prix of the season, according to Bernie Ecclestone.
F1 supremo Ecclestone clarified the situation after reports suggested that Bahrain would still have to foot the bill after a wave of anti-government protests led to Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa announcing on Monday that the country would not be able to host the race on March 13. “The fee that is normally being paid for the event is not being paid,” Ecclestone told the Daily Telegraph. “I am not charging them for a race they are not getting.” Ecclestone added: “Whether they are covered by their insurers for loss of revenues, ticket sales etc., I am not sure. But if anything is force majeure then that (the political unrest) is. It is similar to if an earthquake had struck – no one could have foreseen that a month ago.”
Ecclestone is still hopeful of finding a place for Bahrain on the 2011 calendar, although it will be a tough task as 19 races are scheduled, starting with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 27. “If and when it is rescheduled they will pay their usual fee,” he said, confirming that the $40?million figure widely quoted was “close” to the mark. “If everything is peaceful, which we hope it will be, then we will try our best to fit it in.” These Bahrain reports came from SportsBusinessInternational.
NASCAR announced that NASCARHomeTracks.com will feature live internet radio broadcasts of 32 touring series events, beginning with last Thursday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season-opener at Phoenix International Raceway. NASCARHomeTracks.com is NASCAR.com’s official home for touring and weekly series news and results. The live radio broadcasts will be provided by the team from Speed 51 Radio, headed by SPEED announcer Bob Dillner.
The broadcasts will feature flag-to-flag coverage of many of the top events in NASCAR’s touring series, including the championship season finales in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. “This is a tremendous opportunity to bring the racing action at our short tracks to fans across North America,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “There is no substitute for being at the race track, but this is yet another avenue for fans to follow their favorite drivers and series wherever they may be.”
Among the highlights on the broadcast schedule include the annual combination race for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series on May 21 at Iowa Speedway, and the first NASCAR Whelen Modified/NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour special event on Sept. 11 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. The announcement comes on the heels of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series kickoff, which saw NASCAR K&N Pro Series alum Trevor Bayne capture the Daytona 500. The broadcasts provide fans a unique opportunity to following the next wave of stars as they gain valuable experience competing in NASCAR’s regional touring series.
“This is a unique opportunity NASCAR is providing its fans, teams and marketing partners and we are excited to be part of it,” Dillner said. “I was there for the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season back in 1985 and we (Speed 51 Radio) all have a lot of experience with each of the touring series. We all have a passion for this and we hope that is portrayed this year on the NASCAR Hometracks Radio broadcasts.”
Speed 51 Radio has extensive experience broadcasting short-track racing and hosted a live fan event with the NASCAR champions last December in Charlotte, N.C. Dillner and Elgin Traylor will broadcast the Phoenix race, while Dillner and Speed 51 Radio’s Matt Kentfield were part of the team that hosted the pre-event web broadcasts of the NASCAR Touring Series Night of Champions Awards Gala and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet on NASCARHomeTracks.com in December.
To see what’s happening on the racing TV front this weekend, check RaceFanTV.com. (END)
NOTE: INFORMATION FOR THIS COLUMN CAME FROM VARIOUS REFERENCED SOURCES AND PRESS RELEASES.