May 6, 2003 | 12:16 A.M. EST
ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 will provide 5 1/2 hours of pole qualifying coverage Saturday, May 10 and four hours of coverage on the second day of qualifying on Sunday, May 11. The Disney networks will also supply 6 1/2 hours of coverage on Bump Day, on Sunday, May 18.
Carburetion Day will also be carried for 2 1/2 hours on Thursday, May 22, on ESPN2. This includes the two-hour final practice and the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge.
Race day on Sunday, May 25, will include an hour-long pre-race show at 11:00 a.m., with the race coverage going off at noon.
Many race fans will be excited to learn that the weekday edition of "RPM2Night” returned last night and will be on daily at 6:30 p.m. ET through May 23. Dr. Jerry Punch, Marlo Klain, and Robin Miller all return to contribute to the show, with John Kernan hosting.
ESPN2 will also broadcast the inaugural Freedom 100 Infiniti Pro Series race live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 17.
Other broadcasts include the Indy 500 Festival Parade on May 24 on ESPN and the taped presentation of the Indianapolis 500 Celebration Banquet on May 27 on ESPN2.
Changing gears, one of the more interesting points from Saturday night’s Winston Cup broadcast from Richmond on FX was the brief sequence of comments from Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip regarding the possible increase in night racing next year. The comments were provoked by a Cingular Virtual Crew Chief question asking viewers if they want more night races.
Mike Joy said that he’d like to see more night races, but not at the expense of the local short tracks. So, he proposed the idea of having more night races in the months outside of June, July, and August, when short track races are less frequent. With Joy, it’s a heartfelt opinion, as he’s deeply involved in the local short tracks through his Sunoco racing fuel distributorship and other activities.
Darrell Waltrip, on the other hand, had the viewpoint that you might expect, that of a former Winston Cup driver. He said that a natural point of expansion for night racing is in the hotter summer months.
What did the fans say? A whopping 94 percent of viewers who voted said they want more night racing.
The reality is that it probably doesn’t matter to NASCAR what the short tracks want or that the drivers would like to race in a more comfortable, cooler environment. What really matters is a combination of what the fans said and even moreso, what the TV networks want. With 94 percent of fans saying “Give us more night racing,” the networks will be happy to oblige.
THIS WEEK’S NOTES: The race from California Speedway was the #1 sports broadcast for the week, finishing with a 5.3 rating and 13 share. Many observers may find it remarkable that NASCAR beat the 4.9 turned in by the Shaq – KG duel in the Lakers – Timebrwolves game on ABC. Even more impressively, the race and the NBA contest were on at virtually the same time. So, even though NASCAR ratings are down slightly overall from last year, the Winston Cup numbers are still very impressive. Almost all of the decline can still be attributed to the war coverage, and NASCAR’s numbers are holding up much better than most other sports.
Saturday’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby on NBC included promotional spots for the NASCAR on NBC.
The Busch Series race from California Speedway turned in a 2.0 rating on FOX, down 17 percent from last year’s 2.4 rating.
CART has been available only to the 60 million households on SPEED Channel so far this year, but fans will get a double dose of over-the-air TV this weekend with two races on CBS. The tape-delayed broadcast of yesterday’s race from Brands Hatch will air at 1:00 p.m. ET this Saturday, and the German 500 will air same-day on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The broadcasts on CBS will bring CART racing to over 105 million homes.
If it’s May, it must mean that it’s time for the annual ritual for ESPN to raise its rates 20 percent to cable and satellite operators. One twist this year is that ESPN has an alternative for a less steep increase if the providers agree to offer the new ESPN HD programming and new pay-per-view offerings.
Kenny Wallace and Kevin Harvick are now working with FX to shoot footage for a pilot episode of the proposed NASCAR reality series. There’s no word yet on how much of the series will be devoted to Kenny’s attempt to reconcile with or exact revenge on Big Show.