Fox Sports Chairman David Hill and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Eye Shorter Races

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IJanuary 28, 2011

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 26:  Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2L), driver of the #88 AMP Energy Chevrolet, speaks to the media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Hendrick Motorsports on January 26, 2011 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

The Associated Press released a report stating that Fox Sports Chariman David Hill would like to see shorter races. His ideal is set at having a four-hour broadcast with 40 minutes of pre-race coverage and 20 minutes of post-race coverage.

Shortening races could be a step in the right direction as the newer generation of fans have a lot of different forms of entertainment to choose from, so condensing the races down allows for better focus.

Also, some races can tend to be boring in the middle with how the action dies down, which, at this point, is what draws fans away. Some fans have said that they just go watch the final 20 to 50 laps, plus the recap, and they’ve got their dose as the middle does dry them out. Some fans find themselves watching the beginning, falling asleep during the middle and then in the end, they wake up and catch the tail of the race feeling complete.

NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. agrees with the sentiments, reciting examples from this past season with some races.

“I think it’s a great idea, especially at certain events. The Pocono races are entirely too long,” Earnhardt said during the Media Tour. “I think NASCAR should shoot for a three-hour or three-hour and 15-minute televised event, and try to fit into that sort of time frame. But it can’t be done at all times. I understand. I think you’ve got to have races like the 600-miler (Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte) and the Daytona 500 and things like that—but there are certain events (that should be shortened).

“For example, Phoenix was a good race. Adding that little bit to it didn’t make it better. It only made it longer; it only made it tougher to watch, tougher to witness. It was a good distance (prior to last year's change), and the 300 laps at New Hampshire is the perfect distance.

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“Then you go to Pocono, and it’s entirely too long, obviously. It’s an obvious, glaring issue with everyone that’s there—but it’s like this huge, pink elephant that nobody wants to talk about. Maybe there was some kind of a guarantee or promise made in the deal years ago, and it’s something they won’t change. We’ll see how it goes.”

Shortening the races would condense the amount of time allowed for drivers to make a move, therefore pushing them to drive harder. You see this at your local short track as the 50 to 100 lap features see drivers run hard every single lap. You also see this in the Camping World Truck Series with 150 to 250 mile races. This is the reason some have tuned over to the Truck Series as they like the excitement there. Could the same philosophy work for it’s big brother?

Though, some changes would also have to be made if this change was to take effect. If fans were brought forth to pay the same ticket prices for a shorter span of time, you would see less fans traveling, especially since complaints about the prices have already been made. Therefore, ticket prices would have to be dropped to go with the change. Some track owners may not be in the favor of this as this will reduce the profit made from their perspective.

Also, Hill may think this is a good idea, though shorter time on television equals less time for him to display advertisements. As a result, he will be making less of a profit so will that be okay from his perspective?

NASCAR CEO Brian France says the sport has taken a look at this and looking through the schedule, he says there are some changes that have been made.

“We’ve done that over the last several years. I think you see with Atlanta being a 500-mile race, going to Kentucky, that’s a 400-mile race. California going to Kansas, you’re seeing that’s a 400-mile race,” France said during the Media Tour. “We awarded the second one in California. That is a 400-mile (race)."

“So there will be alterations as we go down the road to shorten them up by a little bit. (There are) no expectations from us to make any drastic changes—but 100 miles changes a complexion of a race, depending where you are, for sure. And we’re going to continue to look at that. And we’ll look at the Nationwide (Series) events where we want to have good separation between a Sunday and Saturday show. (We) will be looking at the length of Nationwide events as we go down the road.”

Another change to look at is the length of the season, in team owner Rick Hendrick’s opinion.

“I absolutely think the races ought to be shorter, and I think the season ought to be shorter. It’s just so long,” Hendrick said. “We’ve got so much to look at—we’ve got baseball, basketball, football all going on at one time, and then (there is) our season.

“Football players, I’ve got some friends, and they get to take months off. We get back from (Las) Vegas (and the banquet to cap off the season), we start testing, and we’re working harder in the offseason than in the regular season. If we had three more months off, I think the fans would be eager to watch it again. But I don’t know.”

Making the season shorter could have some advantages as it would give the guys some time off so they wouldn’t be as worn out and with having less races during the year, it would make the fans more hungry to turn into the action when it did start up. Though a negative side is the waiting game and a lot of fans may not be happy with that as they already say that a two-month off-season is long enough for them to stand. Then bring in the financial deal in the fact that less races equals less money and you may have partners dropping out as a result.

“I think the financial rewards from having the season as it is are too great,” Earnhart said. “It’s almost as if each race is a limb that you can’t amputate. It’s too big a deal to shorten the season. It’s not a simple task to say, ‘All right, this guy is losing a date. Is everybody cool with that?’"

“It’s so challenging. There are tons of money involved and tons of livelihoods involved—and people’s careers and opportunities are involved. So I don’t believe we’ll ever see a shorter season. But I do believe that in my lifetime I will see the shorter races across the board at 80, 75 percent of the events.”

All in all, this is a debate that considers a bunch of factors mixed together–fans and their feelings and the profit of all the companies that are connected to the ordeal. To come to any agreement, everybody will have to agree on something that works for all parties. Whether that equals shorter races or not, that will be a question that NASCAR faces in the future.

Oh, by the way.

40 minutes for the pre-race show and 20 minutes for post-race show is something that may have to be questioned.

Pre-race shows have gotten to the point of including ridiculous content that has caused some fans to turn away. In contrast, post-race shows have been too short as they don’t contain the right amount of interviews to cover the events and speak to the drivers about what had happened throughout the race.

To gain fans back to watching racing on television rather through radio or getting updates online, they will need to address this issue as this is another reason that television ratings have been going down. Maybe flip the two and have a short pre-race show, yet long post-race show.