Fine Tuning Needed

Last week we touched upon some of the issues facing NASCAR and its television future.

While 2008 was better from a production-quality standard in my book, there are still some serious issues that need to be addressed as NASCAR and its television partners move forward.

As we mentioned last time, this is not a debate over which play-by-play announcer is best, what pit road reporters excel or the pre and post-race hosts that make your skin crawl. Whether you like or loathe the talent and personalities who come into your living rooms every week is a subjective argument best saved for bench racing and talk radio (thank you Sirius NASCAR Radio).

Sprint Cup television ratings have been flat or declining the last few seasons. One issue we discussed last time was the starting times of races, that many feel need to be regimented to a standard 1 p.m. ET so fans can make an appointment every week to watch.

It would help fans know where to find the races all season to have one network carrier for the entire season as well, but that's not possible given the enormous amount of money forked over by FOX. TNT and ABC/ESPN. One network wouldn't be able to sign the check needed for the complete schedule's rights.

But it would help if at least the ancillary weekend programming - practices and qualifying - could be found on one channel. As it is now, SPEED does the bulk of this coverage but ESPN and ESPN2 jumped in from time-to-time this season, particularly at the tail end of the year when the Chase kicked in - making for a disjointed and confusing scheduling process.

Throw in the craziness of showing tape-delayed practices and the events leading up to a Cup race don't get the necessary attention they deserve.

What would solve this problem is the creation of a NASCAR channel, much like what the NFL, NBA, NHL and next year Major League Baseball employ.

A NASCAR channel would be the perfect vehicle to showcase this ancillary programming as well as providing a place for immediate reaction to a breaking news story any time of the day or week, which is what the creation of the satellite radio NASCAR Channel on Sirius provides.

A television component could feature post race press conferences, a daily news show, historical features, regional touring races and other insider features which would more than fill 24 hours of programming on such a network.

While SPEED provides some of this, the network continues to let down viewers looking for more than what it provides on race weekends.

SPEED's NASCAR team is very good at what it does and gives viewers an insider prospective of the garage area when the network does cover practice and qualifying.

But the rest of the programming is a mess and its Monday through Thursday prime time line-up is nearly unwatchable if you're looking for anything remotely close to NASCAR or auto racing.

Here we have a long holiday weekend with an opportunity to maybe showcase some past races of this season or classic broadcasts. But you won't find anything like that on SPEED, which is giving us a marathon of "enthusiasts" shows like "Pinks" and "Wrecked."

I've said it before and continue to wonder if a room full of monkeys using darts is the programming method the network is most fond of using.

Maybe NASCAR will get its own channel off the ground soon. In today's world of professional sports leagues, it's a must and something fans - and the coverage of the sport - deserve.

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