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Woody: Racing Doesn’t Need TV-Dictated Finishes

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 26 2011

Were there a three-hour rule in NASCAR, last year's Daytona 500 would have ended early because of a pothole. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Fox Sports Chairman David Hall believes if races were shortened it would solve the problem of waning NASCAR fan interest.

I’m not so sure.

If the racing is close and exciting, fans will stick with it no matter how long it takes to complete the race.

If the racing is boring, fans’ attention will wander during even the three-hour window that Hall proposes.

I suppose having a specific window in which to complete a race would be good for TV executives who have to plan programming slots around unpredictable races. But would it work? I don’t see how.

Races are different from other sports. A baseball game is not going to be red-flagged to clean up a crash in the outfield. A football game is not going to be rain-delayed while the field is dried after a brief shower.

Racing is an entirely different animal and it’s hard to hammer NASCAR’s square peg into TV’s round hole.

What if, for example, the Daytona 500 is delayed by rain or wrecks and with 50 laps to go the three-hour TV cutoff is at hand? And 30 drivers are still in contention, running four-wide and swapping the lead lap after lap?

Does TV hold up its stop-watch and start the countdown? If the clock strikes three with the field in

Television would have to be able to control the weather if it wants all races to run three hours or less. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

turn four is the race over?

A simpler solution would be to shorten the races by reducing the number of scheduled laps instead of the time allotted to run them. That might also help solve the problem of long, boring stretches in which drivers ride instead of race.

A shorter race would add an air of urgency to the proceeding. It would cut out a lot of the mid-race lollygagging and force drivers to get going. Maybe.

There’s no question that TV coverage is vital to the survival of the sport that the medium once ignored. TV is king and neither NASCAR nor any other sport can live without it. (Although personally I still enjoy occasionally listening to a radio broadcast.)

The TV guys in the booth and in the production room do a good job in general. I think the pre-race stuff is ‘way too long and windy (there’s where a cut could be made to tighten the time slot). But that’s why they put an OFF button on remote controls, so I really have no gripe. If some viewers enjoy it they can watch it and I’ll read a book.

NASCAR should be weary about giving TV any more control over the sport than it already has. TV already dictates exactly when races start; deciding exactly when they end is going a bit too far.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 26 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Joe says:

    NASCAR already has TV-dictated finishes.
    They’re called late debris cautions and G-W-C finishes and the Chase.