Friday, October 9, 2009

NASCAR listens to the fans: Sprint Cup Series races in 2010 will have uniform start times.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events moving to earlier, standard TV Start Times

Back in March, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was heading Bristol Motor Speedway, in an article called “NASCAR’s top 5 biggest issues in 2009”, I wrote “there are currently a lot of decisions among the drivers, teams, owners, sponsors, fans and especially in the media about NASCAR’s future and what impact the shaky economy right now will have on the sport. So here is my top 5 issues in NASCAR that should to be address going forward and even though I don’t see NASCAR making wholesale changes in the future, it is a new era, new economy right now in the world and with everyone coming down to reality, it’s time for some change, step by step.”

The top 5 list included: What can NASCAR do with the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series? What about the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Schedule? What about the owner’s points is getting out of hand? NASCAR needed to do something about the “exclusive part of being the title sponsorship of one NASCAR’s national series”.

And while NASCAR has already released the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule that included very few changes and left people asking where Kentucky Speedway is, of course except me consider they don’t need a date. NASCAR has made a change in setting a consistent time for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

On Wednesday NASCAR announced that starting with the 2010 Daytona 500, most of the Sprint Cup races will start earlier in 2010. According to the press release, NASCAR is continuing the sports “back to basics” approach. The race start times for Eastern and Central regions will begin at 1p.m. ET. West Coast races will begin at 3 p.m. ET and night races will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET with one exception, the Coca-Cola 600 will begin at 5:45 p.m. ET. So following the invocation and national anthem, the green flag will drop 15-20 minutes past the hour after each listed race start time. (2010 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule)

“NASCAR fans have been asking for earlier and more consistent start times, and we are making this change for our fans, beginning with the Daytona 500 next February," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “We are revisiting our sport’s tradition of earlier green flags, and the added consistency will make it easier for fans to know exactly when the races are being televised. Additionally, the new start times will help track operators get fans in and out of the track earlier in the evening. Many fans heading home from the race earlier will be able to eliminate the costs of an extra travel day.”

I have to say that I was surprised to see that NASCAR could work with the television networks considering they are the ones that asked for later start times in the first place. Yes I said it out loud. Nonetheless I believe this is exactly the direction that NASCAR needs to move in with not only the fans watching the races on television, but the fans attending the event at the racetrack.

I watch all of the NASCAR races at home or at a family or friends house and this is a welcome change in pace for me, I’m always wondering what time the drop of the green flag will actually be, not what time the pre-show is. However this move in my opinion works well for the fans attending the event at the racetrack. I attended last June’s New Hampshire Cup Series race and the race started just after 2 p.m. Keep in mind, I got their at about 8 a.m. for good parking, by the way, the parking lots were filling up at that time.

Having the race start one hour early does two things, first it cuts one hour from day before the race, and second, it gives NASCAR another hour of daylight to run the race in case of bad weather.

I do realize that this also affects the people on the west coast as they are now going to be watching the Eastern and Central races just after 10 a.m. But think about this for a moment, yes they are up at 10 am, however once 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. comes around, the race is over and you have the rest of the day to enjoy.

I will be interested in seeing what the TV ratings and the attendance at the racetrack will be with this more standard start time.

So will this have an impact on you or is it business as normal? What about the Nationwide Series and Truck Series?