Move Over, ABC and FOX! NASCAR on HBO and Showtime Is Where It's At?

Kara MartinSenior Analyst IJanuary 10, 2010

One minute and three seconds: that’s all it took.

One minute and three seconds of the most visually appealing, innovative footage to catch my eye in a long time.

I felt myself inhale deeply as my pulse rate accelerated. It was slick and sexy; true beauty at its finest.

Just as I do every year around this time, I fell in love with NASCAR all over again, but thanks to an HBO preview, I fell a little harder and faster than ever before.

On Jan. 26, HBO will premiere the first episode of 24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona . It marks the first time that the network has chosen to dedicate its award-winning reality sports series to motorsports .

With seven Sports Emmy awards under its belt for the ‘24/7’ franchise, that until now focused solely on boxing, HBO’s reputation for producing one of the sporting world’s most brilliant series is well-respected and honored.

The four-part series promises “exclusive behind-the-scenes access, along with in-depth interviews with Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus , team owner Rick Hendrick and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team as they prepare for the 2010 Daytona 500.”

Johnson, his wife Chandra and his No. 48 team offered HBO a level of behind-the-scenes access that is rarely seen by fans.

Johnson stated, “This is a great chance for the fans to really see me and the race team and what makes us tick, especially away from the track.”

“Chandra and I were big fans of the ‘24/7’ series with Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather , and that’s kind of how this all came about,” says Johnson “We thought HBO did a great job of showing what goes into a big-time event and capturing the personal side of each fighter and his camp,” he continues.

“It just seemed like the perfect outlet to let the fans see what our team goes through and what better place to showcase that than our biggest race, the Daytona 500."

The cameras will capture all of the activities leading up to the Daytona 500 and beyond. The final episode of the series will air on Feb. 16, highlighting in real time, all of the emotion and adventure that encompasses Johnson and his crew on race day.

Hey, I’m not even a Johnson fan, but I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for this to premiere. Maybe “outstanding camera work” and “exceptional editing” will make me a fan of the No. 48 yet.

Not to be outdone, Showtime has teamed up with the NASCAR Media group and will unveil its new series, Inside NASCAR on Feb. 10.

The show will consist of 38 one-hour episodes that coincide with NASCAR’s Sprint Cup 2010 schedule.

Inside NASCAR , which will be taped at the “new, state-of-the-art” production facility at NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., “will feature narrated highlights and in-depth analysis from each week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, exclusive audio and video of never-before-seen aspects of race week and in-depth feature stories, plus forecasts on upcoming races and opinions on America's No. 1 form of motor sports.”

When asked about its multi -year deal with NASCAR , Ken Hershman , Senior Vice President and General Manager of SHOWTIME Sports, said, "NASCAR is one of the most powerful sports brands in the country, and we are proud to team up with them on this compelling new series."

"Given the level of access to drivers, tracks and teams afforded by NASCAR , we can offer something truly unique to both hard core and casual race fans," Hershman continues.

"We'll take viewers into new areas of the sport, into the hearts and minds of the world class drivers and teams, and give them inside access to stock car racing and NASCAR like never before."

Before HBO and Showtime got into the mix, DIRECTV debuted NASCAR Hotpass in 2007. By dedicating its exclusive satellite HD channels to four of NASCAR’s most promising drivers, it gave fans an exciting new perspective on race day.

Each channel focuses on one driver throughout the race, so in addition to the network broadcast, fans can follow every move made by their favorite driver’s in-car camera. Fans are also privy to the broadcast network audio and the driver's team radio.

With these exclusive channels, the network promises its subscribers “remarkable details that even pit-pass holders can't see. Every thunderous turn. Every near-miss wall scrape. No matter the speedway, DIRECTV HD will keep you on the edge of your seat every second.”

Is premium television the way of the future for NASCAR fans or is it just aesthetically pleasing filler to tide us over until "real" race day coverage begins?


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