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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Events Moving To Earlier, Uniform Start Times For 2010 Season

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

NASCAR worked closely with FOX, Turner, ESPN/ABC and the tracks on this project for the fans. The race start times for NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2010 in the Eastern and Central regions of the country will begin at 1 p.m. ET, West Coast events will begin at 3 p.m. ET, and night races will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 7, 2009) – Continuing the sport’s “back to basics” approach, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and its television broadcast partners today announced earlier, uniform start times for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2010.

NASCAR worked closely with FOX, Turner, ESPN/ABC and the tracks on this project for the fans. The race start times for NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2010 in the Eastern and Central regions of the country will begin at 1 p.m. ET, West Coast events will begin at 3 p.m. ET, and night races will begin at 7:30 p.m. 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 listed race 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. 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.”

A total of 28 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2010 will be held at an earlier time compared to 2009, with 20 races moved to 1 p.m. ET, including the Daytona 500. Moving up the start of “The Great American Race” two-and-a-half hours will produce the earliest start time for the Daytona 500 since 2003, when the race was also scheduled for 1 p.m. Five races move earlier to a 3 p.m. ET start and three races start earlier at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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.

“It’s become clear to us that traditional, early Sunday afternoon, start times are favored by NASCAR fans who both attend races and watch on television,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill. “NASCAR, perhaps more than any other sport, belongs to the generations of fans who have passed on their passion, father to son, mother to daughter, so whatever we can do to make them feel better connected to the sport they love should be done.”

“Many fans have been interested in standard start times for NASCAR’s television partners. In the long term, we believe this change will make the viewing experience better for everyone,” said David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting's distribution, sales and sports. “NASCAR races continue to deliver solid, consistent ratings for TNT. When you combine TV ratings with the number of people who visit NASCAR.COM, the sport clearly remains very healthy and popular.”

"We enthusiastically support consistent start times and are happy to have worked with NASCAR on this move," said John Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president, content. "We are thrilled about our position with NASCAR and bullish about the long-term prospects."

“An earlier starting time for the Daytona 500 is great news for our race fans,” Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said. “In recent years, race fans made their desire very clear for an earlier starting time. With the help of our partners in the sport at NASCAR and FOX Sports, we’re proud to deliver an earlier starting time for the 2010 Daytona 500.”

“This is a very positive move for our fans,” said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager for New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “For example, it allows us another hour of daylight to run our races and to get traffic out before nightfall. Based on the letters I receive from fans, I know they will appreciate NASCAR making this change. For years, the NFL has been very successful with its standardized start times of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. You never have to guess when their games start on Sunday. I think that same template will help our sport as well.”

"We believe this will be well-received by NASCAR fans who attend races in Dover, especially those traveling long distances," said Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports, Inc. "A large percentage of our fans come from the Northeast, and some drive great distances to get here. Consistent, earlier start times is great news for both fans headed to the track and those watching at home.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races will be seen on either FOX, TNT, ESPN or ABC. The 2010 television schedule for points races is below.

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule With Start Times (All Times Eastern)
Date    Day   RaceSite                                   Network Start Time
Feb 14  Sun.  Daytona 500                                 FOX 1:00 PM
Feb 21  Sun.  Auto Club Speedway                     FOX 3:00 PM
Feb 28  Sun.  Las Vegas Motor Speedway          FOX 3:00 PM
Mar 7    Sun.  Atlanta Motor Speedway                FOX 1:00 PM
Mar 21  Sun.  Bristol Motor Speedway                 FOX 1:00 PM
Mar 28  Sun.  Martinsville Speedway                    FOX 1:00 PM
Apr 10   Sat.  Phoenix International Raceway        FOX 7:30 PM
Apr 18   Sun. Texas Motor Speedway                   FOX 1:00 PM
Apr 25   Sun. Talladega Superspeedway               FOX 1:00 PM
May 1    Sat. Richmond International Raceway      FOX 7:30 PM
May 8    Sat. Darlington Raceway                        FOX 7:30 PM
May 16  Sun. Dover International Speedway          FOX 1:00 PM
May 30  Sun. Lowe's Motor Speedway                 FOX 5:45 PM
Jun 6     Sun. Pocono Raceway                           TNT 1:00 PM
Jun 13   Sun. Michigan International Speedway     TNT 1:00 PM
Jun 20   Sun. Infineon Raceway                            TNT 3:00 PM
Jun 27   Sun. New Hampshire Motor Speedway     TNT 1:00 PM
Jul 3      Sat.  Daytona International Speedway      TNT 7:30 PM
Jul 10    Sat.  Chicagoland Speedway                   TNT 7:30 PM
Jul 25    Sun. Indianapolis Motor Speedway           ESPN 1:00 PM
Aug 1    Sun. Pocono Raceway                            ESPN 1:00 PM
Aug 8    Sun. Watkins Glen International               ESPN 1:00 PM
Aug 15  Sun. Michigan International Speedway      ESPN 1:00 PM
Aug 21  Sat.  Bristol Motor Speedway                   ESPN 7:30 PM
Sep 5    Sun. Atlanta Motor Speedway                  ESPN 7:30 PM
Sep 11  Sat.  Richmond International Raceway       ABC 7:30 PM
Sep 19  Sun. New Hampshire Motor Speedway       ABC 1:00 PM
Sep 26  Sun. Dover International Speedway            ABC 1:00 PM
Oct 3    Sun. Kansas Speedway                           ABC 1:00 PM
Oct 10  Sun. Auto Club Speedway                        ABC 3:00 PM
Oct 16  Sat.  Lowe's Motor Speedway                   ABC 7:30 PM
Oct 24  Sun. Martinsville Speedway                      ABC 1:00 PM
Oct 31  Sun. Talladega Superspeedway                ABC 1:00 PM
Nov 7    Sun. Texas Motor Speedway                    ABC 1:00 PM
Nov 14  Sun. Phoenix International Raceway          ABC 3:00 PM
Nov 21  Sun. Homestead-Miami Speedway              ABC 1:00 PM

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.