Fours A Crowd

NASCAR is the big kahuna and schedules as it sees fit. It's the second most powerful sports property on TV and the numbers prove it.

So, why oh why, were there four races on TV at the same time on Sunday?!

The traditional letter networks had CART, IRL, and Winston Cup as their opening offerings. Then you can also throw in ASA on TNN.

What’s going on here? CART says it has a plan. The IRL is asserting itself as the supposed king of open wheel racing. Poor old ASA is just along for the ride on MTV’s TNN. Couldn’t anyone figure out how to have the racing audience all to itself later on Sunday afternoon instead of playing the role of unindicted co-conspirator in audience fragmentation?

Mr. Pook and CART are hankering for more over-the-air network exposure through their CBS time buys. Yet they wasted precious financial resources on a time buy on a day when they had to go head-to-head with the IRL on ABC and Winston Cup on NBC.

Why not run the race later in the day and put it on Speed Channel, saving the time buy money for a better day and better time slot? SPEED’s AMA racing and feature shows could have easily been moved to another time, and CART would have had the racing audience all to itself.

Then there’s the compelling racing from the IRL. The league has had some fantastic on-track action this year, but the series is in serious need of greater TV exposure. Yet their time slot selection on ABC boggles the mind. If they had moved the race to later in the afternoon, they also could have generated a much larger audience.

Conventional wisdom says that a later race is an automatic increase in ratings, because the total TV audience grows as it gets further on in the day. Even more importantly, the IRL would have had the racing fans all to itself.

ABC’s scheduling situation was the easiest to manipulate too. The IROC race could have been a lead-in to the IRL, with Tony George’s league getting that precious final time slot against no other racing.

As it was, Sunday’s post-IRL offering was the Women’s British Open, a tape-delayed golf tournament from Scotland. Instead of showing golf after the IRL, ABC could have led off Sunday’s sports coverage with golf, then gone to IROC, and concluded with a strong IRL race with the racing audience all to itself. Not only that, but the British Women’s Open wouldn’t have had Tiger Woods as its TV competition.

As much as racing fans don’t want to admit it, there is a limited audience out there that will tune in to any form of motor sports. Putting on four races at the same time is not a way to grow any of the racing series. The non-NASCAR racers should figure out a way to capitalize on the TV schedule, not fall victim to it.

THIS WEEK’S NOTES: The Watkins Glen broadcast on NBC turned in a 4.7 overnight rating and 11 share, unchanged from last year. The CART and IRL broadcasts each garnered a 1.1 overnight rating on Sunday.

If you want to watch Austin Dillon, the grandson of Richard Childress and son of Mike Dillon, play in the Little League World Series, tune in to ESPN and ESPN2 to see the Southeast team play on August 17, 18, and 20. All games are televised.

NASCAR IN CAR on iNDEMAND has added a sixth driver to its coverage for each of the last two races. Race fans are saying positive things about the coverage, especially the opportunity to hear their favorite drivers say some very candid things. Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans are even talking about him singing and cracking jokes. Throw in the new commercial-free coverage and it’s a hit for those with digital cable and the extra money.

NBC takes a month off from Winston Cup coverage as TNT takes over at Michigan, the first of four weeks in a row of Cup action on the Turner network. The biggest reason for this is that two of the races are on Saturday nights. This time slot makes TV network executives jittery when it comes to sports broadcasting. Only a high profile race like the Coca-Cola 600 or Daytona 400 is compelling enough to convince the suits that the ratings might justify the time slot on an over-the-air network.

The Super Bowl of the World of Outlaws, the Knoxville Nationals, won’t be on TV until September 26 and October 24. The races were run this past weekend. It’s hard to believe that’s the best deal the sanctioning body could work out for TV coverage.

NBC analyst Wally Dallenbach will attempt to qualify for the Busch race at Michigan. TNT has big plans to work him into the broadcast as he’s competing.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2002

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