NASCAR, Earlier Start Times, Please

David PhillipsAnalyst IFebruary 17, 2009

What ever happened to earlier start times in NASCAR, like 12:30 or 1:30 p.m.? In the 2009 schedule, only two races start ealier than 2:00 p.m. Those are Talladega, on Nov. 11, at 1:15 p.m., and Martinsville, on Oct. 25, at 1:45 p.m.

There only five races start at 2 p.m.; that leaves 29 races starting later in the afternoon.

Many fans were upset that the Daytona 500 was called so quickly after rain began to fall, just after 6:30 p.m. EST. There were less than 50 laps (120 miles) remaining at the time, which was well past the required halfway mark to make the race official.

Matt Kenseth was declared the winner early, and everyone was sent to the exits without even so much as an attempt to wait it out and dry the track.

What's up with that? Didn't the Pepsi 400 go until, like, 2:00 a.m. a year ago?

First, the start time for this race was much too late in the day. The command to start engines was given at around 3:30 p.m. Yes, I know it could rain just as easy a 1:00 as it could at 6:00, but with such a late start time, there is little if any "wiggle room" in the event schedule to compensate for red flags, rain, or wrecks.

The television networks want later starting times to make races an option for the entire country. A 3:30 EST start meant it was 12:30 PST. I guess it also helps with the church crowd, as they can go to service, grap a bite to eat, change clothes, and be back home to watch the race.

Had the Daytona 500 started at 1:30 p.m., the full 500 miles would have been completed before the rain ever arrived. Yes, it would have made it 10:30 a.m. start in California, but I don't think that makes that big of a difference.

Probably also taken into consideration was the fact that FOX had a full lineup of prime-time shows slated to air on Sunday night, including the first HD episode of The Simpsons.

For those that would suggest that FOX shift the race to one of its other networks, that would not be likely. They had spent weeks advertising the "Great American Race" to the nation. They would have looked like they were not giving sufficient priority to such a major sporting event.

Of course, an earlier start time could have been scheduled. Keith Urban can probably sing just as well at 12:30 as he can at 2:30, and Tom Cruise can probably drive the pace car just as well at the earlier time. Besides, we already have a night race at Daytona later in on the season.

Could it be that FOX pushed NASCAR to make a quick decision and “blame it on the rain,” so as not to interrupt The Simpsons?

Who really runs NASCAR? Is it FOX, ESPN, or is it NASCAR themselves?

Geez, I remember when almost 60 percent of races started around noon.

My advice to NASCAR: Listen to the fans before you don't have any. If people paid for 500 miles, give them 500, or at least act like you are trying to.

I can hear it now: "It's to save gas money." So they wouldn't have the cash to pay officials to drive blower trucks around and waste fuel.

Enough excuses, NASCAR, just give us what the fans want.