Start It Up

Anyone still think NASCAR doesn't listen to fans and make changes when it makes sense?

This week's announcement of standardized start times for the 2010 Sprint Cup Series schedule is the latest example of the sanctioning body's willingness to adapt to what the paying customers want.

After enduring a myriad of green flags and a confusing mess of when a race really starts versus when television coverage kicks in, NASCAR and its television partners made the right decision to set-up next year's Cup schedule with three easy times - 1 p.m., 3 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. ET. With the exception of the Memorial Day Sunday Coca-Cola 600, which will maintain its traditional 5:45 p.m. ET start, every other race on the 2010 calendar will fall into one of the three new set times.

To be fair, the networks were trying to build NASCAR's fan base and grow the sport's television numbers with the move to later times. The thought was the deeper in the afternoon start would attract west coast viewers at a more reasonable hour for those fans while also leading telecasts into prime time programming.

Obviously it didn't work out that way.

So the cry from fans to go back to the traditional 1 p.m. start went out about a year ago and finally we have what I think is a major win for the sport.

Fans attending races can get a head start on heading home and rather than arriving at the homestead at 2 or 3 in the morning will actually have a shot at being in bed at a more reasonable hour.

Weather delays will also have a better chance of being averted with the earlier start time, giving officials a bigger window on late Sunday afternoon or even Sunday night (at tracks with lights) to get the show in, rather than the dreaded next clear day rescheduling policy.

Ending races earlier on Sundays helps media coverage as newspaper reporters can make deadlines for Monday editions and television sportscasts will have a better chance at airing more post-race content.

And from a totally self-serving media perspective, how nice will it be for this reporter to actually be home a few Sunday nights next season?

After double file restarts and now the new uniform start times, even the harshest NASCAR critics have to admit not everything falls on deaf ears in Daytona Beach.

I can't think of another professional sports league that has responded to fans like NASCAR has in recent years.

The naysayers (and I realize they're out there) will point to moving the Southern 500 from Darlington or the introduction of the Chase or the creation of the COT as bad ideas NASCAR has made in recent years.

If you still feel that way, you're probably a lost cause anyway.

There has been lots of change and yes some missteps along the way. But overall NASCAR has done a good job taking this sport from its sandy beach beginnings to where it is today.

And despite those who continue to say otherwise, listening to the fans has been a big part of that equation.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2009

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