To go along with NASCAR's approach of going "back to basics," today it was announced that starting next season, the Sprint Cup Series will have consistent start times for it's races.
"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 day of travel."
In all, 28 races will have their start time changed next season. All races that are run on the east coast and central regions will begin at 1 p.m. ET. West coast events will begin at 3 p.m. ET. All night races, east coast, central, or west coast, will begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Coca-Cola 600 will remain with a 5:45 p.m. start time because of it's length.
Following the invocation—the National Anthem—the green flag will be posted approximately 15-20 minutes after the listed start time.
The move to start the races earlier was based after consulting with the NASCAR Fan Council. Two-thirds of the fans stated that if they had to choose an ideal start time for races, it would be early on Sunday afternoons.
The Daytona 500 is now at it's earliest start time since 2003, when the race took the green flag at 1 p.m. The last three seasons, the "Great American Race" has started later than 3 p.m, with this season's race being shortened due to rain.
"An earlier starting time for the Daytona 500 is great news for our race fans," said Robin Braig, President of Daytona International Speedway.
"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 move once again shows that NASCAR is willing to listen to it's fans and give them what they have been asking for. Earlier this season, NASCAR listened to its fans when they decided to go with it's double-file, shootout-style restarts.
The earlier start times are just another step to show how pro-fan NASCAR is.
"It's become clear to us that traditional, early Sunday afternoon, start time are favored by NASCAR fans who both attend races and watch on television," said David Hill, FOX Sports Chairman.
"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."
The most avid fans of NASCAR have been with the sport for multiple years. Moving back to the Sunday afternoon start times could possibly bring the ratings up, along with the attendance of the races.
When a track such as Bristol sells out it's event the day before the race, and needs to advertise to fill it's seats, there's an issue.
Anticipate having more sell-out crowds, much higher viewership, and an overall better experience next season for NASCAR.
The start times for the Budweiser Shootout, the Gatorade Duels, the Sprint Showdown, and the Sprint All-Star Race have still not been announced.
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