Welcome to our blog. We are professors of management (and NASCAR fans) who teach a course on the business of NASCAR at Virginia Commonwealth University. We will post regularly on the business issues of NASCAR during the season and will include posts from our students. We invite comments. Dr. Jon Ackley and Dr. Michael Pitts
After negotiations ended this past Monday between NASCAR and FOX TV, the television station may consider ducking for cover as fans are left hanging with many questions. When Fox TV signed contracts on Monday giving it the right to air the Sprint Cup Races through year 2022, it failed to give fans and consumers the lowdown on how it will go about televising the races starting in 2013, with the first races during Speed Weeks at Daytona. Their new network, Fox Sports One, will be the rebranded name of the SPEED network, but will it provide the same satisfaction for fans?
In relation to the benefits for the motor sports industry, this deal with FOX TV will boost NASCAR’s income, as well as the income for tracks and teams. This income, in turn, will help maintain lower ticket prices for fans and increase race winnings for teams, which possibly reduces the level of corporate sponsorship. However, this scenario may be at cost to the fans watching at home. Not only will Fox have rights to air the first 13 Sprint Cup races and the entire Camping World Truck Series, but it also gets the digital rights for online streaming yet it is unclear whether fans will have to pay for online access. With FOX also announcing that the new deal will take some of Sprint Cup races off network television, internet access for fans will be even more crucial than before.
The next big issue for fans is the question of how FOX will go about televising the practices and qualifiers. With no official word on the status of televising these events, it leaves fans with the possibility of not being able to watch at all. Even though Fox could air those events on its subordinate stations like Fuel TV or FX, the fans at home will not be pleased having to watch multiple channels to get their fix, especially when they could previously watch everything on the SPEED network.
The biggest issue comes from the clash between what commercial sponsors want and what the fans want. Considering that Fox TV is such a highly rated network, commercial sponsors will be fighting to place their ads during as many NASCAR events as possible. Unfortunately for fans, this means more interruptions that could prevent viewers from seeing their favorite racer cross the finish line or catching the wreck they’ve been waiting for the whole race to see. With the amount of money spent on ads by sponsors, the proposal for a split screen for commercials will not go over lightly. In the end, Fox has a lot of people to please, and it’s a sure thing that not everyone will walk away happy. JH
If last weekend’s fiasco in California did anything, it showed everyone — including NASCAR — that the current Sprint Cup schedule simply needs the same major overhaul that NASCAR gave its cars with the COT(oday).
OK, weather notwithstanding, look at the fallout of racing on Monday in California and having to be in Las Vegas by Friday morning (make that realistically Thursday late afternoon). And that’s after nearly two weeks in Daytona.
Look deeper into the schedule — Texas, Phoenix and Talladega start April. Then in June, there are back-to-back races at Pocono, Michigan and California (Infineon), ending the month in New Hampshire. Doesn’t get much better at the end of July and beginning of August with Indianapolis, then Pocono, Watkins Glen and Michigan. Then the season ends with Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead-Miami.
Bottom line is that any one of these venues is susceptible to terrible weather over a weekend that could disrupt travel schedules — and yes, attendance and TV viewership. But more importantly — especially in times of high gas prices — can’t NASCAR cut these teams some breaks by setting a schedule that doesn’t have them criss-crossing the U.S. week after week?
It’s possible but frankly NASCAR doesn’t seem interested in teams, drivers, or fans.
As we approach the start of a historic race, here is the full list of the 10 greatest to ever drive at Daytona.
(To review: the results are based on statistics – not a subjective approach to the term “greatest.” The top 10 is based on a statistic of wins per miles raced at Daytona in all “money” races, such as qualifiers, the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400. For instance, 12,000 laps with 3 wins amounts to 1 win per 4,000 miles raced.)
10. Jimmie Johnson (5117.5 miles : 1 win total)
9. Dale Jarrett (1 win every 4166.88 miles / 4 wins total)
8. Jamie McMurray (1 win every 3770 miles / 1 win total)
7. Tony Stewart (1 win every 3473.75 miles / 2 wins total)
6. Dale Earnhardt,Jr. (1 win every 3416.25 miles / 2 wins total)
5. Bobby Allison (1 win every 2955.83 miles / 6 wins total)
4. Richard Petty (1 win every 2354.25 miles / 10 wins total)
3. David Pearson (1 win every 2184.38 miles / 8 wins total)
2. Jeff Gordon (1 win every 2103.75 miles / 6 wins total)
And finally the all-time king (sorry Richard) of Daytona is:
1.Cale Yarborough (1 win every 1745.55 miles / 9 wins total)
Prior to the Daytona 500, and then again heading into the California race this past week, several media reporters suggested that NASCAR (and Brian France) had its head in the sand by stating that NASCAR’s off year in 2006 was a glitch.
Well, let’s look at what’s happened so far. Daytona’s TV viewership was down from last year (10.1 rating in ’07 vs. 11.3 rating in ’06) but was still one of the top five ratings in the race’s history.
Again there was no sell-out in the stands for last week’s California race — NASCAR estimated the crowd at 87,000 while California can seat 92,000 plus the suites and 2,000 RV spots (sixth race in a row that was not a sell-out) — but California officials are pleased with the crowd size, especially given the weather on Sunday.
Nielsen reports that TV ratings for California were tied with last year’s ratings (6.2 rating) but lower than 2005.
So where does that leave NASCAR? Too soon to tell but Las Vegas might be a better barometer of NASCAR’s performance.
Here’s a thought to ponder: My colleague Mike suggested that NASCAR consider moving one race each year to a track that no longer has a Nextel race — rotating once every three to four years as needed. Might spark some new interest, especially in those areas that have lost their race(s) to other tracks.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” No wait, I guess it was the best of times (again).
If we could have omitted the middle 60 percent or so of this race, I think we would look back upon it as being a ‘classic’. I had earlier noted to anyone who would listen that NASCAR needed the thrill to return as a boring Daytona would not help down the line with either the fans or the sponsors.
And, of course, it delivered.
From Mr. Ghost Rider delivering the “Gentlemen, start your engines’ to that upside down Jack Daniels car (hmm…perhaps a new drink here — “The Upended Bowyer”) there were enough tingles still left to be had.
And once my wife stopped screaming in my ear, I had figured out that the Army of One had needed to be an army of at least two as the Scallop car just had too much juice. I also deduced that I wanted to have the wrecker concession at future races.
One final word, though — “You’ll get ’em next time, Mark”.
That’s the view from Richmond …
PS — I still think Toyota will win by Race 7, but you wouldn’t have known it yesterday.