[to top of second column]
Besides, racing just looks better at night, and it's a whole lot wilder, something that wouldn't be wasted on the 18-34 demographic NASCAR is so desperately seeking. In 2007, for example, car parts, smoke and sparks flew through the air like the climactic chase scene from "The Road Warrior" as Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin raced side by side at 200 mph separated by the length of a car hood. Seconds later, providing a perfect exclamation point, Clint Bowyer skidded across the line with his car upside down -- and on fire.
The announcers that night, with decades of NASCAR experience between them, scoured their memory banks for a comparison. Finally, driver-turned-broadcaster Darrell Waltrip settled on the NASCAR-inspired hit comedy from a year earlier. "It's `Ricky Bobby," he said. "It couldn't have been any better."
This one could have, but it had nothing to do with the stage.
It's been a turbulent few years, economically, for all pro sports and NASCAR might have been the hardest-hit. Last year's season delivered a 10 percent jump in TV ratings, but it came after a decline that saw the sport's numbers slide by nearly a third from their peak in 2005. Attendance is sagging, sponsorships are harder to come by, more than a few skilled drivers are still struggling to find regular rides and at least one former big-time team finished the year living paycheck to paycheck before being sold for cheap.
But NASCAR isn't going anywhere. It's got two years left on an eight-year, $4.5 billion TV deal with Fox, TNT and ESPN that runs through 2014. But France is expected to begin talks on a new deal later this year and he'll need more than luck just to get the $560 million NASCAR is bankrolling annually under the old one. He's going to have to bring something new to the table and "Monday Night Racing" might not be a bad place to start looking.
"We were talking about it on the back straightaway," Earnhardt said afterward. "When you're in the car, you don't think about what night it is, and you could just forget, really, to be honest.
"But whenever they want us to race," he added, "we'll race."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Sports index
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor