Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Earlier Start Times Mean An Old Sunday Routine

When I first started watching Winston Cup races, my Sunday routine went something like this:

Mad dash home from church - maybe picking up some food on the way - then a quick change into comfy clothes before scarfing down Sunday dinner in the kitchen or (depending on how much I socialized after church) in front of the TV. All because racing started early, and if you dilly-dallied at church you might miss a few laps.

Well, after NASCAR's announcement today, it looks like I'll be getting back into my old Sunday habit.

As part of the sport's "back to basics" approach, Sprint Cup races in 2010 will have earlier and consistent start times each Sunday. The race start times for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in the eastern and central regions will begin at 1:00pm ET, west coast events will begin at 3:00pm ET, and night races will begin at 7:30pm ET. (The one exception is NASCAR’s longest night race, the Coca-Cola 600, which will have the same 5:45 p.m. ET start time.)

Following the invocation and national anthem, the green flag will drop at approximately 15 – 20 minutes past the hour after each stated race event start time.

"NASCAR fans have been asking for earlier and more consistent start times, and we are making this change for our fans, beginning with the Daytona 500 next February," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

“We are revisiting our sport’s tradition of earlier green flags, and the added consistency will make it easier for fans to know exactly when the races are being televised," explained France. "Additionally, the new start times will help track operators get fans in and out of the track earlier in the evening. Many fans heading home from the race earlier will be able to eliminate the costs of an extra travel day.”

In making the decision for earlier, more uniform start times, NASCAR consulted its Fan Council, comprised of 12,000 avid fans who serve as a sounding board on important topics. Half of NASCAR avid fans said they are often unclear about what time NASCAR races actually start. When given the chance to choose a start time, more than two-thirds of avid NASCAR fans preferred early Sunday afternoon.

I'm not sure how this will affect the pre-race shows on each network or, for that matter, the fantastic and worth-watching Race Day show on Speed TV.

All that is still to be decided I suppose. But one thing's for sure - I'm gonna have to start attending the early service.

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