New Hampshire Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on September 20, 2010 | 9:20 A.M. EST
If Sunday’s race wasn’t the best Chase opener in history it was certainly in the team photo. (Photo: Getty Images)
However, outside of the stock car enthusiast arena the start of NASCAR's championship sea on seemed to go a bit unnoticed.
Drivers did a multitude of media appearances in the days leading up to the New Hampshire kickoff and the sport did grab a few headlines and ink. But the glitz and glamour that should surround the start of a major sport's playoff season was more of a dull roar.
Part of the problem is of course being buried by the mighty NFL. With a full slate of games on Sunday, NASCAR had to fight for any publicity it could muster.
There's nothing NASCAR or any other sport can do about that. Unless a league or sanctioning body is willing to sacrifice September through February and basically shut down, the NFL will be a heavyweight that must be dealt with.
Throwing the green flag in the quaint but hardly major market location of Loudon, New Hampshire doesn't help the cause. The track is a great venue, the fans support it tremendously and the racing is exciting. But New Hampshire Motor Speedway does not carry the gravity of a Daytona, Talladega, Darlington or Bristol.
Next year the Chase moves to the big city for it's opener with Chicagoland Speedway set to inherit the lid lifter. That move should allow for more major market media exposure at least leading up to race, but I'm still concerned with just now much coverage the weekend will get battling for attention against the frenzy of the Bears as well as the rest of the busy Chicago sports landscape.
The best way to generate the kind of spotlight the Chase opening race deserves continues to be a Thursday night prime time start. The NFL has demonstrated how successful that idea can be and just enjoyed record TV ratings when the Saints and Vikings began this year's schedule two Thursdays ago.
NASCAR needs to take some dramatic steps to break out of he increasing clutter that divert so many fans' attention these days. The opening of the ten races to decide the championship should be a bigger deal than it was this year. A stand alone stage would help.