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Woody: What Time Will The 1 p.m Races Start?

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 7 2009
The green flag at Kansas, and at other Sunday races next year, will fall at 1 p.m. Or so. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

The green flag at Kansas, and at other Sunday races next year, will fall at 1 p.m. Or so. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NASCAR Chairman Brian France scheduled a 3 p.m. press conference Wednesday to announce a shift to more consistent starting times.

I wasn’t sure if the 3 p.m. start was Central, Eastern or Mountain Time, or if 3 p.m. was when the “pre-press conference” began or if it was when the starting flag actually fell on the microphone. Would a booth-full of analysts come on ahead of France to tell us “what to look for?”

Only kidding – Brian got his press conference started at the announced time, and without the aid of expert analysts.

Now let’s see if he can do the same with his races.

NASCAR is concerned about a dip in TV ratings and one step it is taking to try to reverse the trend is to set more consistent starting times, starting next season.

This year’s starting times have ranged from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

But setting more consistent starting times won’t help if THE DARNED RACE DOESN’T START WHEN IT’S SUPPOSED TO START.

That’s my biggest gripe with the NASCAR telecasts. I’m tired of planning my schedule around the “start” of a race – or when the schedule says it starts – then have to sit through 30 minutes of blather from the booth.

I don’t have anything against the TV guys doing their pre-race gabbling; I just don’t care to listen to it.

If they’re going to yak for 30 minutes before the start of the race, then run features on Jeff Gordon’s motor home and the History of Lug Nuts, fine – simply let the schedule show that the pre-race fluff starts at 1 and the race starts at 1:30. How hard can that be?

What part of “start” don’t TV and NASCAR understand?

If the NFL can kick off a football game on time, NASCAR should be able to start a race on time.

In the old days I seem to recall that most daytime races started around noon and most nighttime races started around 6 p.m. (Of course in the REALLY  old days TV starting times weren’t an issue because there were no TV races.)

The problem didn’t begin with more races being televised; it began when more races were televised outside the traditional Central and Eastern Time zones. They were timed for the benefit of fans on the West Coast at the expense of fans in the Southeast.

But let’s be honest: erratic starting times are aggravating and irritating, but they’re not what’s causing NASCAR’s low TV ratings.  Die-hard race fans will set their alarm, get up and tune in at 3 a.m. if necessary – as long as they’re treated to a good race.

The reason why ratings are down is because the racing has been down. Even the three “playoff” races so far have been bland.

Today’s average three-hour NASCAR race consists of two hours and fifty minutes of riding and 10 minutes of racing – if we’re lucky.

Going to more consistent starting times is a step in the right direction but the real key to better ratings is better racing. If it’s exciting, fans will watch. If it’s boring they won’t.

You can’t fool race fans – any time of day or night.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 7 2009
6 Comments

6 Comments »

  • RAEckart says:

    Had to go to Jayski to get your headline question answered. The race will start between 1:15-1:20 pm which gives enough time for the national anthem, a couple patriotic events and the pace laps to take place.

    While this is wildly unpopular with most race fans (see article above or comment by Gina), there are a few left who will appreciate some simple Americana tributes. Everyone else can tune in at 1:15 to see the final pace lap and the green flag fall.

    Thanks for trying to answer your own headline, but forgetting to do it. Your loyal bloggers will happily pick up the slack. You were too busy doing other entertainment things. Like imitating the start of a TV broadcast that is going away in 8 weeks.

  • Gina says:

    Great article and so true. Tell me the actual start time of the race, not when the pre-race drivel starts. Too much talk, not enough action and that is one of the reasons that ratings are down. I know that I no longer tune in to watch the whole race, my pattern has become, watch the start (when I can figure out when that actually is), the first 10 laps, then go off and do something else until the last 30 laps when the racing might actually become interesting.

    I know that watching racing on TV CAN be exciting, but the networks (all of them) have become so focused on the entertainment and “if the race finished now” scenarios that they have lost the ability to actually show and tell me about the race that I’m trying to watch. Plus, wasn’t this car supposed to fix the “aero push” issues of the old car so that it would be more competitive and not allow the leader to get out in front and drive off? Well, that’s been a total bust, so they had to fabricate excitement for a few laps by the double file restart rule.

    I’ll give credit to NASCAR and the networks for finally making this change, but it isn’t because the fans demanded it, it’s because the fans had lost interest and therefore, ratings are down and so is revenue. And considering that David Hill’s response to prior fan complaints was “tough”, I was kind of glad that he had to say how wrong his assumptions were that the fans would just take whatever trash the networks were willing to give them and like it. Now, if someone will just take DW and make him stop cheerleading for Toyota and run over the gopher — well, I can dream can’t I?

  • Bill B says:

    In all honesty most of the so called hard core fans (of which I am one) won’t be happy until Brian undoes all the shoot-from-the-hip changes he made when he took over.

  • Bob says:

    Larry – I live on the So. California and look back fondly of the days when ESPN, TNN or CBS started broadcasting the races at 12pm Eastern, because it was 9am Pacific!
    I was not happy when the masterminds at FOX, etc. decided to jack around with the start times.
    Before the changes, you could watch the whole race and then after that, maybe catch some Drag Racing, etc.

    On another topic, I live only 60 or so miles from Fontana, but prefer to drive to Vegas or Phoenix to see racing.

    P.S. I used to go to Ontario & Riverside, so I have been around for a little while.

    Regards -

  • missouriracefan says:

    Unfortunately the earlier and consistent start times just means the really lousy television coverage will also be earlier and consistent.

  • SB says:

    What!!!!! A member of the media who is NOT telling the ignorant fans that the races this year has been the MOST EXCITING in Nascar history? Amazing! Here’s one fan who thanks you for seeing things through the eyes of a race fan…not a ‘championship’ fan.