Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Needs to Reassert Control of Race Start Times

There was a time when NASCAR was arguably the No. 2 sport in the United States behind football. The NFL has been the 800-pound gorilla for the better part of 40 years, but in the 1990s and 2000s, NASCAR was able to dictate when and where it did its thing, and the broadcast partners bowed down to them in order to have the rights to broadcast their events and rake in the millions of dollars in advertising.

Fast forward 20 years, and the script has been completely flipped.

We have already seen the ridiculous scheduling of races at tracks without lights starting events at 3:30 in the afternoon. The slightest rain delay ends up in a scenario where the race is cut short or rescheduled until Monday, when it will air on an obscure cable channel that fewer than two million households receive. People who are longtime race fans cannot understand the logic of such a decision because they know that it actually rains in the afternoon on most days in the summer.

The television networks pay a ridiculous amount of money for the rights to broadcast the races. They certainly deserve some consideration when it comes to the schedule and when the events take place. That said, the sanctioning body should still be the ones who decide when and where the races take place and it is up to the broadcast partner to plan and budget accordingly to bring the events to the masses.

The Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway, which is now known as the Coke Zero Sugar 400, used to be run on the Fourth of July. It always started at 11 a.m. Why did it start at 11? Because it rains in Florida every day in the summer after 3 p.m. Putting lights at Daytona was one of the dumbest ideas ever and it continues to prove that fact every single year when the races end up delayed because of rain.

We saw it again on July 18 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, when the race was started at 3:40 p.m. on a track with no lights. NASCAR tried to force the issue by starting the race in a drizzle and it ultimately cost some of the major contenders for victory a shot when the rain picked up and they crashed their cars in turn one very early in the event.

See also
Mother Nature Strikes Early, Chaos Ensues at New Hampshire

Common sense said to start that race at 1 p.m. or earlier. Instead, they started the race late and ultimately cut the race short by nine laps, which probably ensured a victory for Aric Almirola.

Follow that up with the foolishness that is shutting down the schedule for two weeks so that NBC can cover the Olympics and cannot spare the resources to cover NASCAR at the same time.

This just in: some people would rather watch racing than rhythmic gymnastics. There are certainly fans of the Olympics who are fans of NASCAR. However, since 90% of the coverage of the Games is on tape delay, it would not have hurt the network one iota to run the NASCAR races and still carried the video of men’s volleyball afterwards.

The bottom line here is that NASCAR is the sanctioning body and it needs to assert that fact with the broadcast partners. You don’t see the NFL rescheduling games because the broadcast partners have something else they want to cover. The sanctioning body makes the schedule and it is up to the broadcast partners to follow along or let someone else have the races that they cannot cover.

Broadcast rights are a multi-billion dollar enterprise and it is understandable that the people who put the events on TV want to have some kind of say in what they have to deal with in trying to bring the events to the masses.

See also
Up to Speed: Reviewing NASCAR Playoff Points of the Past

However, in the end, the organization putting on the events has to do what is best for the sport. If that means that the broadcast partners have to deal with a scenario that is a less than ideal for their situation, so be it. In the end, the goal is to bring the best product to the masses, not the most convenient for the advertising partners and the TV companies.

There is no doubt that Big Bill France is turning over in his grave watching his beloved organization start at race at New Hampshire at a time when the slightest sprinkle puts the entire event in danger of being completed on time.

The time has come for NASCAR officials to step up and tell the broadcast partners that they are going to do what is best for the fans and the sport — forget about what is best for the petulant advertisers and executives who don’t give a damn about putting on the best race. The fans deserve better and NASCAR needs to step up and deliver it to the people who have stuck with the sport for years.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Bill B

I’d love to hear from the idiots that thumbs downed your comment. It’s just a link to another article. There is nothing controversial.
How about it idiots – What exactly is there about this comment that upset you?

Paul Lata

It’s all greed that drives this world now. There is no integrity in broadcast media anymore. From part of the story and out of context commentary on the events and personal opinions not just presenting news for what it’s worth without drama that sells commercial time.

Paul W

I can’t go to the races in my area (Pocono and Dover) and get back the same day at a reasonable time with a late afternoon start …I have to work for a living with an early start Monday morning. Consequently being treated as insignificant by NASCAR and Indycar leaves me watching fewer races. I like racing but I have other options for fun on weekends. Great way to treat your paying customers, guys

Bill B

Agree 100% but I don’t see it changing. NASCAR has sold it’s soul to the television networks. The more control the networks have the more they are willing to pay. So the question is; Is NASCAR willing to leave some money on the table and settle for less money in exchange for more control? I doubt they are.


Let’s say the networks take less money and NA$CAR has more control. If the changes they make results in higher TV numbers, the networks can charge more for the commercial time and make up for the loss of control of the product. Kind of like what we lose on the apples we’ll get back on the oranges. But I can’t see it happening because of all the mistakes NA$CAR has made that they won’t admit were wrong and undo, which is what the NFL will do.

Bill B

Good point but that’s a big IF and it could also result in lower ratings. Probably would even out overall (added viewers in east = lost viewers in west). Any gain would probably depend on how much it rained during the season and how many races started and finished on schedule as a result of the start time, It would be very interesting to see.

David Russell Edwards

I suspect they will cater to where the money comes from. And all indications are that TV, not butts in the seats, is where the profits are coming from. If so, I dont expect anything to change. But Im willing to be surprised.

Al Torney

I think you picked the wrong time to write this article. Without tv money the odds are we may not have had a racing season in 2020 and maybe 2021. And this is especially true if the Xfinity and truck series.
Just like the NFL. MLB, NBA and NHL NASCAR is now dependent on tv money. Now take into account the Cup ratings have taken a nose dive over the last 5 years, or longer, does not put the sport in much of a bargaining position. money talks and bs walks” has never been more true. Under Big Bill the attendance was the most important and tv money the bonus. That has now been reversed. Get used to it. Anyone who thinks that the tv networks and sponsors are going to put up millions of dollars without a say in how it it is used isn’t playing with a full deck.

David Russell Edwards

Guess it makes sense. You can only seat so many people in the stands of any event. By the same token TV gives you the opportunity to reach people from the entire viewing audience. So I suppose it is natural that TV will caqll the shots. I wonder what will happen if the events are moved to the streaming services. Will people pay $4.99 a month to be able to watch the races. It will happen.


That is just not true. Other than a big drop after Junior retired NASCAR ratings have held up better than every other live sport except Football.

All live sports are down a bit, but by and large NASCAR has weathered it really well. Why do you think the networks are willing to pay BILLIONS to secure the rights long term? It wasn’t out of the goodness of their heart. It also wouldn’t have happened if ratings were “nose diving” in any meaningful sense.


NASCAR can do this; indeed, they already did it a few years ago when it became an issue, under the same media packages that exist today and even advertised the fact of consistent start times (1PM for most races and 3PM for west coast races). They apparently just don’t care anymore.

Last edited 2 years ago by Christopher
David Edwards

Oh, I think they do care. Care about the money. And they feel that what you hey are doing brings them the most money. Maybe we should have figured that out by now.

Oliver Hughes

NASCAR needs network to show the races on Network not cable channels pERIOD!!!??

Donnie W Bowen

NASCAR is the best thing going, Football is my next best sport. NASCAR should start the race at 1:00 PM like they used to do. RACE on one Channel and Football on another. You Choose what you want to watch.

Tim C

I agreement 100%. I recently told the management at AMS my dissatisfaction with the start time. I remember when AMS started the race as early as 12:15. In those days I would be home about the time the race ends now. Its ridiculous to not be racing earlier because of the potential late afternoon showers delays. But its all about the tv money and west coast fans. NASCAR could care less about the east coast fans opinions.

Chad Prutko

I totally agree, I even talk to the owner up at pocono about the start time. It’s all up to the tv station. They are loosing alot of people by starting so late. Then it’s also about the west coast, if they start at noon it’s 9am in California,. So what. Bring back the old days.

Brent Mack

Yes whatever happened to NASCAR at noon every Sunday. And fox carried the race unless the Packers are on and then CBS carried it. Now you have to have cable to watch any NASCAR race it seems. I’ve missed many of races due to this. I wish it was like back in the olden days. Thanks for listening

Michael Williams

I’ve been wanting them to start them earlier for a long time. They are letting tv.ruin the sport. It’s turn into more of a put on show like wrestling rather than a real sport.


NASCAR fan for over 30 years. Over the last 5 years I can only watch about 15 races a year just because the start time and day they are run on. You are losing me as a fan. Need to go back to the Sunday racing at 12 or 1pm the way it was for so long. I think us older NASCAR fan are not needed anymore. Good luck with with the new fan base your going to need it.

Last edited 2 years ago by David

Well back in the day of 1pm start times I would ask my family and friends not to call during race time. Now I don’t give a crap. By 3:30-4pm I’m already into something else. So they are not only losing people in the seats but also losing people in the TV seats. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.


The most successful televised sport in the U.S. by far is the NFL. And they absolutely control the start times of the games to get 3 games in each Sunday. Furthermore, Mike Neff’s comment notwithstanding, they will make a schedule change to switch an earlier regional game to the featured late afternoon time slot if it seems to be an unexpectedly good match-up,

You can also be sure that Tampa Bay, with their Super Bowl Championship and the G.O.A.T. in the starring role, will get a good share of those late afternoon games even though they will start after 4 pm Eastern Time. But I’ll bet the Bucs fans will be glad to accept the “inconvenience” of a late start over the early start times they had when they were a perennial loser. Likewise, the Packers with Danica’s ex back at work will get plenty of late starts, but most of the GB fans will just look at that as a good way to get more tailgating in.

NASCAR gets more money from its TV contracts than from the actual venues. It might be time to stop trying to kill the golden goose.

Last edited 2 years ago by James

NASCAR really need to return to the old points system and do away with stage racing and a ” playoff” system. Let the team/driver who performs CONSITENTLY throughout the year, and earns the most points be the champion. Sure would get a lot of the old fans back!!



David Edwards

Is it my imagination or does it seem that a lot of, or at least some of the long time, diehard “fans” want to see the product at their convenience and for free.
But of course I could be mistaken.


Nope…just like to see it like it used to be.


That statement is WAY off. I’ve been a “fan” since 1972. I’ve gone to many races (especially 1974-early 2000’s), bought the tickets, food, hotel room , everything. I’ve traveled long distances to see a race. I supported STP, Purolator, Gatorade, Coke, and many of the early sponsors of NASCAR. I’ve listened to the early races on the end of the old AM dial on a rinky-dink country music station, watched ABC Sports for a half hour spot of NASCAR racing. NASCAR was not popular until the late 70’s, and didn’t explode until almost 10 years later. And when it was finally shown on ESPN, TNN. etc. I paid for the cable bill just to watch NASCAR. So no, it was neither “convenient” nor “free”…

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