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Fading NASCAR heads to ESPN

by Mel Bracht Published: July 24, 2009
Once in the fast lane, the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s TV ratings are coasting into the pits.

ESPN is hoping for a turnaround when it takes over coverage of the series on Sunday with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"It’s fair to say that we certainly recognize that the baton is being passed to us with ratings down,” said Julie Sobieski, an ESPN programming vice president. "While we certainly see as you do that there’s room for improvement in a lot of areas, we’re doing everything we can from a TV standpoint.”

Ratings for Fox’s first-half coverage slipped 12 percent from last year. Next up, TNT’s six-race package was down 6 percent from last year and 21 percent from 2006.

To boost ratings, Sobieski said the TV networks and NASCAR have discussed making race start times more consistent to make it easier for viewers to find the races.

ESPN also is cranking up its multimedia marketing campaign to bring race fans back to the sport as it begins its third year of coverage, which includes 17 races on ESPN and ABC to close out the season.

"BatCam” will make its NASCAR debut. The camera on a cable, used by ESPN for the last two Indianapolis 500 telecasts, will fly over the speedway’s frontstretch and pit road at more than 80 mph to give viewers a dramatic look at the action.

"This has all the ingredients to be the best (Brickyard 400) yet,” race announcer Jerry Punch said.

by Mel Bracht
Copy Editor, Sports Media
Mel Bracht is a copy editor on the presentation desk and also covers sports media. A 1978 graduate of Indiana University, Bracht has been a print journalist for 34 years. He started his career as sports editor of the Rensselaer (Ind.) Republican...
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