|Sunday, July 11, 2004
Racing's TV ratings dip on Fox
By Dustin Long
The Roanoke Times
JOLIET, Ill. - Fox reports that its NASCAR Nextel Cup ratings dropped three percent this season, as NBC and TNT take over broadcasting the rest of the Cup season with today's race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Greensboro, N.C., was the nation's No.1 market with a 15.9 rating and a 30 share for Fox's broadcasts. A rating point is the percentage of TVs tuned to a program relative to the total number of TVs. A share represents the percentage of all TVs turned on that is tuned to that program.
Norfolk's ratings dropped 9 percent. Norfolk's rating was 9.1 with a 17 share.
After Greensboro, the top five markets were Greenville, S.C. (13.6 rating), Charlotte (12.7), Dayton, Ohio, (10.9) and Knoxville, Tenn. (10.2).
Overall, Fox's rating this season was 5.6, down from the 5.8 the network had each of the last three seasons. A rating point equals 1.08 million homes. Fox's ratings were down 9 percent through the season's first three races. Network officials blamed the off weekend after the season-opening Daytona 500 for disrupting viewer patterns.
After Darlington in March, the network reported a 2 percent increase in the next nine races before dropping at Daytona last weekend.
NBC's ratings dropped two percent last year but could show an increase this season with NASCAR's new season-ending 10-race championship format.
Many of NBC's staples return for this season's broadcast, including the announcing crew, featuring Allen Bestwick with analysts Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach. Also returning is NBC's feature of profiling the top 20 or so drivers throughout the race.
Also, NBC again plans to break out of commercial if something important happens on the track. The only time NBC can't break from commercial is when local stations are running their commercials. Local stations get about one break an hour and NBC tries to run those during a caution.
NASCAR will change its pit road policy beginning with today's race. Also, series officials appear set to announce before New Hampshire in two weeks that they'll attempt to end races under the green for Nextel Cup and Busch Series races.
The new pit road policy is meant to clarify issues, but some drivers question if it creates more judgment calls by NASCAR.
NASCAR President Mike Helton said that if a driver is speeding on pit road to stay ahead of the leader and remain on the lead lap, that driver will not get the lap back and he will start at the tail end of the longest line. If a driver is speeding on pit road but not doing it in to stay on the lead lap in NASCAR's judgment, the driver will receive the normal penalty of restarting at the tail end of the longest line.
If the leader does not slow immediately for the caution in an effort to put cars on pit road a lap down, NASCAR officials will send the leader out of the lead and to the tail end of the longest line of cars for the restart.
To stay on the lead lap, a car on pit road must beat the leader to the start/finish line extended or the exit of pit road depending on where it is when the caution flag waves.
Also, Helton suggested that any rule for green-flag endings would not necessarily prevent some races from ending under caution, as they have this season at Talladega, Charlotte, Pocono and Michigan.
If a caution waved after the leader had started the last lap, the standings would be frozen and the race finished. Also, if series officials go to a two-lap green-flag finish, they're likely to only try it once per race. Thus, if there's another caution, the race would end under caution.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team changed transmissions after he lost third and fourth gear in the final practice session. ... Rookie Brian Vickers was the fastest in the final practice session with a lap of 182.661 mph. He was followed by Jimmie Johnson (181.014 mph), Mark Martin (180.409), rookie Kasey Kahne (180.379) and Joe Nemechek (180.210). ... NBC announcer Allen Bestwick quickly apologized to viewers during Saturday's Busch Series race after the network aired an expletive from a driver's in-car audio.