Opinion: Mid-Week Makes Sense
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 10, 2013 | 9:23 A.M. EST
The Sprint Cup Series schedule is in desperate need of freshening and “Wednesday/Thursday Night NASCAR” is the perfect answer. (Photo: Getty Images)
Have you turned on your television lately during prime time this summer? Be thankful if you haven’t.
There isn’t much in the way of compelling TV on the air these days (and nights), unless you’re into more crummy reality shows, knock off singing competitions or bad sitcoms that didn’t make the network cut the first time around.
Since the NHL Stanley Cup and NBA Finals ended, it’s also pretty light on the sports television front. Even a die hard baseball fan like myself can’t get excited for too many July games with not much on the line.
This great abyss offers NASCAR a perfect opportunity to grab the spotlight by scheduling a handful of mid-week Sprint Cup Series races.
I’ve been a proponent of this idea for years and with a brand new television contract about to take hold in 2015, NASCAR and its partners should explore peppering the schedule with a couple of races that would no doubt be among the most popular of the season.
My MotorRacingNetwork.com colleague Dustin Long wrote a piece earlier this week about Jeff Gordon’s desire to see NASCAR go prime time during the week.
“I am not saying we need to do it every week, but if we could find the right week in the schedule and mix it up, make it special, and make it make sense for the fans at home as well as the ones that could attend, then I think it would be awesome,’’ said Gordon.
I could not agree more with the four-time champion.
NASCAR should start with the annual Daytona July race and slide the Coke Zero 400 back to being run on Independence Day, preferably in its traditional early morning time slot. The holiday berth offers fans ample opportunity to travel to Daytona and those watching television or listening on the radio a chance to catch the race while still enjoying 4th of July festivities in the evening.
Opponents of the idea bring up television and ratings taking a hit by moving a race from prime time to an unfavorable late morning time slot. A fair point but I’d be willing to bet the uniqueness of the race and its connection to NASCAR’s past would still generate a sizeable audience with a potential for growth as the race gains a foothold on the sport’s landscape.
Wimbledon, the British Open and NFL games that kick off at 10 a.m. on the west coast don’t seem to suffer from a lack of viewership.
As the summer rolls on a couple more Wednesday or Thursday night Cup headliners could also easily find their way onto the slate. According to Conde Nast Travel Guide, July and August are the top two months for Americans to vacation. Slotting in a mid-week race or two into that time period would give NASCAR fans the chance to plan their summer trips around a race and not miss any time at work.
I’d be willing to bet television networks would also prosper in terms of ratings and audience. A prime time Sprint Cup race during the week would most certainly be must-see TV and attract not just NASCAR followers but casual sports viewers as well, hopelessly looking for something to watch on the tube during the summer doldrums.
The Eldora Camping World Truck Series race and next month’s trip to Bristol for the series are mini-examples of how NASCAR racing on Wednesday can be a success. There’s no doubt in my mind SPEED and FoxSports 1, which inherits the truck schedule when the network debuts on August 17, would generate more than solid audiences. Giving NASCAR’s top division the same chance to shine would produce even greater results.
Don’t know about you, but I know what I’d do if given the choice between watching a Sprint Cup Series race under the lights on a warm summer Thursday night or an episode of “Extreme Weight Loss.”
The Sprint Cup Series schedule is in desperate need of freshening and “Wednesday/Thursday Night NASCAR” is the perfect answer.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.