NASCAR numbers declining

With its new Gen6 car NASCAR has witnessed two track records in its first four races of the year.

But it’s not seeing record TV ratings. Rather, in that all-important area, it is declining.

The sport has seen its television numbers dwindle over the past 10 years. Officials in NASCAR and television have listened to fans at the track and TV viewers to make changes to try to increase the viability of the sport. One of the main alterations was the method of qualifying. It has drawn fewer fans to the stands and ratings have declined during the broadcasts of these sessions.

FOX has been with NASCAR since 2001. The networks has seen its highs and lows since taking over the first-half broadcasting rights. The 2014 Daytona 500 viewer ratings were the lowest in the races history. FOX officials have stated “race fans are excited with the telecasts, but want more excitement.” The network can control how the show is aired, but not what happens on the track. The network needs to find a quick solution due to the decline in ratings. The ratings have reached their lowest since the first flag-to-flag coverage aired in 1979.

FOX Sports extended its multi-platform media rights agreement with NASCAR by two years. The deal begins in 2015 and runs through 2024.

In addition, FOX Sports has added exclusive rights to 16 Sprint Cup events – including the Daytona 500 – and the first 14 NASCAR Nationwide Series events of each season. FOX broadcast the Nationwide Series as part of its original package beginning in 2001. FOX Sports also will air the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited, Budweiser Duel and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The network has exclusive rights to the entire Camping World Truck Series season through 2024.

The network has a large piece of the TV pie, but needs to do something to improve the taste.

NBC, which last broadcast NASCAR events in 2006, will televise the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, the final 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series races and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events beginning in 2015.

NBC needs to look at the current TV package to ensure its programming will not make the miscues with which FOX has dealt for more than 10 years.

Innovations have changed how fans can view the sport. The internet has increased its capability, radio has expanded its realm in and out of the garage area and television must find its new niche in the sport.

Fans will turn out at the track, but televisions can be turned off.

* Race car driver Gary Bettenhausen has died. He was 72. Bettenhausen was a veteran of open-wheel competitor who drove in 21 Indianapolis 500s between 1968 and 1993.

His best finish was third in 1980. He was the top qualifier in 1991. Bettenhausen’s father, Tony, also was an Indy 500 veteran who was killed in a practice crash at the speedway in 1961. Speedway president J. Douglas Boles issued a statement, noting Gary Bettenhausen’s success in many types of cars and calling him “the perfect definition of a race car driver of his era.”

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com