Fans Should Be Tired of How TV Treats NASCAR, and How NASCAR Treats Itself

Summer’s here, the kids are out of school, and there’s vacation and leisure time around the house. Realistically, though, who has seven hours to invest in waiting for the conclusion of a NASCAR Cup Series race?

NASCAR and Fox aggravated fans at Dover earlier this season, and then the sport teamed up with NBC at Nashville to do the same, more or less. It’s enough to suggest there’ve been no marriages in the family of any decision-maker for at least two generations.

The Ally 400 in Nashville ended just before midnight on the East Coast

Cars sit covered on the grid during a weather delay in  the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 26, 2022 in Lebanon, Tennessee. | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
Cars sit covered on the grid during a weather delay in the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 26, 2022 in Lebanon, Tennessee. | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Not quite seven hours after the green flag dropped, Chase Elliott took the checkered flag in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. Two delays, one for lightning and the other for rain, created the marathon.

Jokes aside about how everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it, NASCAR and NBC can’t control Mother Nature. What they can control, however, is starting times. The original plan was to start at about 5:25 p.m. ET, though a look at the radar early in the afternoon prompted NASCAR and the network to move that up a few minutes.

Unfortunately, the lightning protocol threw a wrench into the first stage, and then we got rain during the second stage. At 9 p.m. ET, NBC gave up and threw the finish over to USA Network so that it could show America’s Got Talent. The racing resumed just past 10 p.m.

Sports fans are used to the treatment. They play Whac-A-Mole in March while trying to find NCAA Tournament games. Just last weekend, too, the network had them bouncing from NBC to USA to Peacock to watch commercials. (Uh, wait, I think that was actually the U.S. Open, but I digress …)

Even a 3 p.m. starting time this weekend could have saved everyone time and spared them aggravation.

We could be in for more NASCAR marathons the rest of the season

Fans rightfully criticized Fox for the 3 p.m. ET start time at Dover on May 1. The combination of weather delays and no lights required NASCAR to suspend the race until the following day. Ironically, Chase Elliott also won that marathon.

The episode renewed the clamoring to move most East Coast races to 1 p.m. starts. NBC’s default start time for the summer schedule is going to be 3 p.m., meaning fans will be susceptible to replays of the Dover and Nashville scenarios.

Don’t expect the situation to improve. NASCAR is dependent upon TV money, so it’s in no position to tell the networks to start afternoon racing at 1 p.m. As explained last summer by The Athletic, the networks calculate that starting then rather than at 3 p.m. reduces the average audience size by about 10%, primarily because of the inconvenience for fans in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

The story further explained NASCAR has analyzed the intersection of weather and TV revenue and decided it is prepared to lose two races per season to Mother Nature. Well, we haven’t reached July yet, and the sport has already seen two races hit hard by weather.

Plenty of fans left the track or turned off the TV on Sunday night without knowing who won. Luckily for the NASCAR faithful in Dawsonville, Georgia, they always set off the siren at the pool room when Bill’s son, Chase, wins a race.

Unfortunately, that’s too easy to mistake for a tornado warning when it happens at midnight.

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