Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Too Many Commercials … Or Are There?

Birds are singing. The sun is shining. Flowers are sprouting from the ground and in full bloom. Everything is beautiful.

No, it’s not springtime yet. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just won Daytona, and all is right with the world.

NASCAR couldn’t ask for a better start to the season than a win in its biggest race by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
NASCAR couldn’t ask for a better start to the season than a win in its biggest race by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

NASCAR couldn’t ask for a better start to the season than a win in its biggest race by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Earnhardt’s win in the Daytona 500 was big in the way that Danica Patrick’s pole was last year. Not only is Earnhardt a name that people recognize and know, but the victory came in one of the most prestigious races in the United States. People know the name of the race, they know the name of the driver, and Earnhardt just broke an insanely long winless streak. It was a much-needed boost for the sport.

The fact that Earnhardt was in a giddy mood, showcasing a personality even NASCAR fans don’t get to see very often was an even bigger plus. He was humorous on David Letterman, well-spoken on SportsCenter, and all smiles everywhere he went. Not that you can blame the guy, but it’s a far cry from the doom-and-gloom Earnhardt of the last few years.

I don’t know if Earnhardt will win many more races this year and I highly doubt he will win the championship. But if this win brings more awareness to NASCAR and re-invigorates his large fan base, it was a positive for the sport.

Now, on to your questions:

Who in Hell was responsible for hiring the National Anthem singers? Roseanne was better. Next time, get one of the military bands to play it. Anyone over the age of 20 had to gag over that. By the way, that is also the group that buys the tickets. Al and Sal

Would I be a horrible person if I said it didn’t really bother me that much? I can assure you I’m over 20, but I wasn’t sitting there gagging in disgust.

To answer your question, the track is responsible for booking the individuals and bands who sing the Star Spangled Banner but they don’t screen them and say, “OK, sing the National Anthem EXACTLY the way you are going to sing it so that we know you won’t piss anyone off.” I mean, sure, they make sure the person/band can, you know, sing. But past that, they can’t control the actual … ehrm … “performance.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I thought the performance by Madison Rising was irreverent. I typically don’t think that singers taking liberty with the song when needed is irreverent only because it’s a difficult song to sing. However, I don’t think the full-on concert performance was necessary.

With that said, I wasn’t disgusted or offended by it. The United States is a country of free expression and free speech and I don’t believe they meant any disrespect in putting on that performance. If anything, Madison Rising intended that song to be patriotic, considering that they refer to themselves as “America’s most patriotic band.” I highly doubt that Madison Rising intended to be disrespectful to any troops, past or present, in their performance and, if anything, have a tremendous amount of respect for the military. They didn’t intend to disparage the country or do anything but express their bona fide patriotism.

In cases like this one, I look at the intent of the action. And I don’t believe Madison Rising intended for their singing of the National Anthem to be anything but patriotic, heartfelt, and ‘Merica. They had fun, they enjoyed it, and they are loyal and enthusiastic about their country. If that’s the case, then they are fine with me.

“WAY WAY WAY TOO MANY ADS on FOX!!!!! I really, really, really hate most of the action we get second-hand after an advertisement. It’s ridiculous!” CA99Fan

I will admit that I felt the commercial breaks were getting way too frequent in certain portions of the race, but the missed action is hardly FOX’s fault. Unlike literally almost every other professional sport, there are no scheduled breaks in racing. FOX has to plan their commercial breaks carefully and pray to the racing gods that nothing of interest happens while they’re away.

Almost without fail, though, it does. It feels like we miss large wrecks more often than we see them because the networks are usually on commercial, but it is hardly the network’s fault. Like I said, they can’t guarantee when something interesting will happen and, if you don’t want to pay to watch the races, then you will have to deal with commercial breaks.

FOX (and the other networks who will eventually face the same criticisms) receive way too much flak for this issue. It is simply not possible to guarantee that the commercial breaks will not impede the viewer’s experience unless NASCAR adds scheduled breaks. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of you don’t want that (though I would be interested in exploring the idea). So, with that in mind, we have to understand and accept that there are some things the TV is not going to catch live. If there is one thing you can say about racing, it’s that the sport is unpredictable and the network basically has to take a calculated risk and hope that nothing significant happens while they’re on break. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not intentional. They aren’t doing it to piss you off or because they don’t care. It’s just extremely difficult to predict when certain things will happen in the race considering that nothing other than the green and checkered flag are a scheduled, pre-determined part of the event.

Here’s where I can make my point. How often do you see the TV going to commercial and one of the commentators said, “Green flag pit stops coming up?” That’s not just coincidence. When there is a long, green-flag run, TV typically tries to take a commercial break so that viewers can see the upcoming green flag pit stops. How often, though, do cautions come out close to the end of a fuel run? I don’t have the official percentages in front of me, but I know just from viewing experiences that it happens fairly often. So we know that TV certainly tries to help us see as much as possible but it’s very difficult to accurately predict all of that.

In short, give these guys a break. They are trying their best to satisfy their sponsors and their viewers which is an extremely delicate balance. It sucks to miss something important because of a commercial, but all networks are very good at bringing everyone up to speed if anything does (and will inevitably) happen. I would say that scenario is better than having to pay for Pay-Per-View every week.

“I’ve seen that NASCAR is considering the number of Nationwide and Truck races that Cup guys can run. I like the idea, but not if it kills the lower series. I’m afraid those with short attention spans and an unwillingness to learn will not tune in without Cup guys. Is there a way they can do it without killing the series?” Hallee

Well, I don’t think a limitation is going to kill the series, but the races without the Cup Series drivers in it do tend to have lower ratings. I think there will be enough diehard fans to watch to keep both series going; however, they won’t be gaining new fans that way, losing an important connection. I’ll use myself as an example of why. Back when I first started watching racing, and before I began working as a writer, I discovered the Nationwide Series because I heard that drivers like Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick were competing. “But it’s Saturday… why are they racing on a Saturday?” was my response.

I then tuned into the Nationwide Series races because drivers I had already heard of were in it. I wanted to see how they did. The same can be said for the Truck Series.

Of course, if you limit drivers in the series but don’t ban them completely, perhaps you can find a happy medium there. There are pros and cons to having Cup Series drivers racing in lower-tiered series, but I tend to think limiting drivers in the Nationwide and Truck Series will do more harm than good. When owners, sponsors, and even other competitors say that they like having the Cup Series drivers on their level, it’s not up to NASCAR to react.

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