NASCAR, Fox Sports announce new agreement
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR and Fox Sports Media Group announced a $2.4-billion, eight-year extension Monday that runs through 2022 and keeps the prestigious Daytona 500 and first third of the Sprint Cup Series on the network.
Fox, which has been with NASCAR since 2001, will pay an average of $300 million annually beginning in 2015 in its first fee increase in more than a decade.
“NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with FOX and FOX Sports Media Group,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France. “This extension with FOX Sports Media Group helps position the sport for future growth as NASCAR continues to be an anchor with one of the world’s largest and most influential media companies.”
The deal was put together during an early negotiating window with Fox, which has two full seasons remaining on its current contract with NASCAR, and at a time when the motorsports industry is still battling the economy.
The Saturday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway had an announced crowd of 100,000, the smallest since NASCAR began announcing attendance in 2003. Talladega a week earlier also had its smallest crowd.
Steve Herbst, NASCARs vice president of broadcasting and production, said the deal with Fox proved the sport is a great value and on solid footing.
“Any industry sport will tell you that ratings and attendance are cyclical. Our future is very bright and this is a great signal to the industry that we are on very stable ground for a long time down the road,” Herbst said. “Being able to attract a television partner is about the power of live sports. It’s still unique. There’s an ocean of programming to the masses and there’s still something special about live sports that reaches people.”
Fox gets the first 13 Sprint Cup Series races under the deal, and the entire Camping World Truck Series. Fox also retained the rights to the Sprint All-Star Race and the Daytona 500 qualifying races and the preseason Shootout race at Daytona.
An additional and important component to the deal for NASCAR is the inclusion of “TV Everywhere” rights, which allow Fox to live stream its races online beginning with the 2013 season-opening Daytona 500. Fox can also stream pre- and post-race coverage, race highlights and in-progress race highlights.
That portion of that deal was made possible by NASCAR reacquiring control of its digital platform, which goes into effect next year.
“This was something that was long overdue,” said Herbst. “It services the fans in a way we’ve never done before, and provides another great way to consume the product. NASCAR is now delivering across every platform.”
Fox has not determined if it will charge viewers to watch races online.
Fox paid a fee increase to NASCAR for the first time in more than a decade, and the deal puts NASCAR in the driver seat for negotiations on the remainder of its contract. ESPN and Turner hold the rights on the remainder of the schedule through 2014, and exclusive negotiations with NASCAR do not begin until next summer.
NASCAR dumps rule 35
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) —NASCAR on Tuesday announced competition changes for 2013 that includes the elimination of the top 35 qualifying rule and a reduced field size in the Nationwide Series.
Starting next season, the top 35 cars in owners’ points will no longer be guaranteed a spot in the Sprint Cup field. NASCAR will use a 36-6-1 format in which the fastest 36 cars make the race on speed. The next six highest ranking cars in owners points not already qualified then earn a starting spot, followed by the most recent eligible past champion driver.
“This is a big win for our fans,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “They’ll see the fastest cars earn their starting spots. This change adds intrigue, drama and excitement to qualifying.”
In the Nationwide Series, NASCAR will only allow a maximum of 40 cars to race each week instead of 43. The change cuts three cars from the field who likely would have started then parked shortly after with no intention of attempting to race.
“We feel to strengthen the ownership base it’s best served to reduce that field to 40 cars,” said Pemberton. “It gives us an opportunity to put what we feel is a better quality field of cars in play at those Nationwide events.”
The Sprint Cup fields will remain at 43 cars and the Truck Series field will stay at 36 trucks.
Among other changes announced Tuesday:
— The Sprint Cup Series qualifying order will be based on random draw instead of practice speeds.
— If qualifying is rained out, the field will be set by the rule book but the starting order for the race will be determined by practice speeds.
— Last year’s owner points will be used to set provisionals for the first three races; the rules currently have last year’s points carry over for the first five races.
NASCAR also opened its testing policy for next season. Teams had been banned from testing at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks since 2009 as a cost-cutting move, but beginning next season Sprint Cup teams will be allowed four tests at tracks that hold NASCAR races.
Nationwide and Truck Series teams will be allowed two tests, and teams with rookie drivers will get one additional test. NASCAR also will pick two tracks to open one day early for testing at the start of a race weekend.
“We feel like it’s time to open that up and allow the teams to manage their testing and get back to facilities that host our events,” Pemberton said. “We made the decision at the end of 2008 to restrict testing, primarily for economic reasons. Now we believe it will be best for the garage and for the tracks to have some testing return in 2013.”