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