Daytona may look different to you this season as Fox Sports looks to take their coverage to a new angle this year. Fox Sports President, Eric Shanks, met with members of the media on Wednesday evening, as part of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, to discuss some of the new things coming to his network this season. Some of the topics included new television angles, a new feel to the prerace shows, and how the company will deal with televising the truck race at Eldora Speedway on SPEED.
Fans that cannot attend races today because of the cost of traveling have been able to get a similar experience when they watch at home, but there seems to be some things still left that Fox wants to show those fans. Shanks said that they want to show the speed and difficulty at driving at some of the tracks the Cup series goes to. When talking about the difficulty of racing, tracks that Fox covers such as Daytona, Bristol, Martinsville, Darlington, and Dover come to mind. Bristol and Martinsville are both are on brakes and tricky to make your car turn in the center, so maybe a camera will be placed in the undercarriage to show the brake rotor.
When talking about Daytona both speed and difficulty are used and Shanks said there is no other track like Daytona to show these aspects. He did mention that during NASCAR Gen 6 testing earlier this month they did test their cameras for the upcoming season, but still needed to get them fully approved. Some of the angles some fans might have seen included one that was pointing at the way the camber was changing in the car as it entered and exited the turns such as in this video. Furthermore, it would be interesting to point out the speed camera and that Shanks said there is “no track the size of Daytona” which leads me to think about a camera similar to how they have in swimming. Imagine a camera going down the backstretch at Daytona right with the cars at 200 MPH!
It is part of the history and tradition of each NASCAR race to announce and display the starting field before each race and Fox wants the fans at home to get to see their drivers before the race too. Usually before the command to start engines and the invocation and national anthem, the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers climb into trucks to be taken around the track to wave to their fans. When this happens you don’t get to see “the human starting grid” as Shanks says. The only race that has done this sometimes in the past was the previously named Shootout, now Sprint Unlimited, occurring the weekend before the Daytona 500. Shanks wants fans to be able to see all 43 drivers together at once, again like a human starting grid. Fox is currently working with tracks on how the driver introductions are occurring this season, but look for a new driver intros starting at the 500.
SPEED, a Fox Sports company, will once again broadcast the Camping World Truck series this season, which will include the series’ visit to Eldora Speedway. Eldora as some fans know is a dirt track owned by Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart, and a market that NASCAR is heavily interested in getting back to. By returning back to dirt this season, NASCAR is attempting to get back to their roots of the “good old days.” One of the dilemmas that the team at Fox will have to work with is the dust and mud from the track. “We have the self-cleaning cameras that are used for our on board coverage,” Shanks said, but when it came to talking about the exterior cameras used to show the entire field he says, “that is a great question, I am not sure, we will get it figured out.” With teams going to be testing at the track I am sure that Fox and SPEED will get it all worked out in time for the race.
With this season making the fans happy and doing more for them, Fox is more than excited to help NASCAR with their marketing and strategy this year. “If you love the sport, you want to do more for it,” Shanks said, and they are going to do just that. Some other notes from my discussion with Fox Sports President, Eric Shanks, included about the future of SPEED channel. He says SPEED will be around, no need to get worried about that, and that some of the NASCAR themed shows are being worked on. NASCAR Raceday, the two hour prerace show broadcasted on SPEED, will be back again this season as well as SPEED’s very interactive Social Garage. The social garage allows fans to interact with SPEED personalities such as Bob Dillner, Wendy Venturini, Kenny Wallace, and every week this past season they had a special guest driver. Some of the drivers that were part of the social garage experience included Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, and Ryan Newman. Trackside “is a work in progress” as Shanks puts it saying that several of the segments that occurs on the show were good, but it is just difficult to plan how to do the show. Trackside has gone through several changes over the past several years from live or tape-delayed shows, taping in the middle of a Friday, and then if it is live on Friday, sometimes not that many fans are there to be part of the show. Trackside is just a difficult show to put together from a logistical side, but SPEED and Fox Sports are interested in making it a great show still for the fans.
For the past several years he has been in the NASCAR Nationwide series but no wins or championships to show for it, but that could all change this year. Michael Annett, driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, spoke with me briefly during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway to explain why 2013 is his year. Coming over struggles and riding an up and down rollercoaster is something that has become fashion to Annett, but he wants to make this coaster to keep on going upwards.
The 2012 season was the best on record for Annett who finished fifth in points, and whose highest finishing position was fifth as well. “Could look back last year and say yes for sure, but then there could be other years that we don’t,” Annett said when asked about the Nationwide series having a Chase format similar to the Cup series. This debate has been going on for a couple of years of whether the other two big National series, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks, should have a chase format. It looks like with NASCAR’s rule of choosing one series to run for the championship, it has helped solved the points battles in all of the series. “We were just missing that little bit” Annett says looking back on the 2012 season, “need to come off more competitive and put that into the other guys’ head.”
Looking towards this season, Annett could not come off more excited to get the season started and underway as he goes for wins and the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship. “It is going to be tough,” Annett mentioned about the competition this season, especially with Trevor Bayne in a full time ride with Roush Fenway, not to mention that team has won back to back titles in the Nationwide series. Annett is most looking forward to racing at Daytona because of the prestigious that goes into that event as well as getting to Phoenix to prove early that he is a contender this season. “Championship is our goal, as long as we are here we are battling, but we do need to win first” Annett continued on speaking about his shot at battling with drivers such as Elliott Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr, and Bayne.
The Richard Petty driver also spoke on how it is to drive for NASCAR’s King, Richard Petty, “It’s amazing, fun work off the track with charities, get to interact with lots of people. He has taught me how to treat people and that the fans are why we are here. I am just fortunate.” Annett moved to RPR at the beginning of the 2012 season after Rusty Wallace Racing closed down their Nationwide division at the end of 2011. Some of the charity events that Annett gets to be involved with include golf tournaments and go kart races. Being the King, Richard Petty has his own karting event called the King’s Cup which is about three hours in length and helps raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp; a camp founded in memory of Richard’s grandson Adam Petty. The King’s Cup is a race that is held at Victory Lane Karting (VLK) and Annett spoke highly of the facility saying, “Victory Lane Karting is where you can say you raced,” meaning if you want a feel as to how it feels to race in the Nationwide series check out VLK.
Is 2013 going to be Annett’s season? Is he going to finally win a Nationwide series race? Will he contend and possibly take the title from Roush, after winning it two years in a row? Only time will tell, but you can count on Annett to be at the front each time he takes to the track as he is determined more than ever to prove he belongs in the highest ranks of motorsports.
For photos from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway please click here.
NASCAR fans are going to be able to determine the details of a NASCAR race more than ever before, by voting on crucial components of the newly renamed Sprint Unlimited occurring at Daytona International Speedway on February 16. The race will feature voting from NASCAR fans via two ways including the NASCAR.com website and the newly updated NASCAR Mobile ’13 app. Fans will be able to vote on the race format, pit stop format, how many cars are eliminated, and which fire suit Miss. Sprint Cup will where in victory lane. The first vote will close on Feb. 13 at 11:59PM while the one a lot of people will be watching, the elimination vote, will close at the start of the second segment.
This is the first year that Sprint will be taking over the naming rights of the pre-season, invitational only event, which will not see 2012 Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski. The announcement was made today during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will occur over the next four days throughout North Carolina. The reason why Brad Keselowski will not be in the first race of the year, and more importantly the first race with the new Gen 6 Cup car, is because he did not win a pole in the 2012 season. Director of Sports Marketing at Sprint, Tim Considine, said that Keselowski was given plenty of notice before the end of the season and had opportunities to qualify his way into the race.
This partnership between Sprint and Daytona International Speedway, will be a multiyear deal, and will allow Sprint to interact with more fans than ever before. Sprint’s sponsorship with NASCAR started just a little over a decade ago and was extended the other month for a few more years. Sprint also sponsors the All-Star race, which is ran at Charlotte Motor Speedway the weekend prior to the season’s longest race of the year, the Coke 600. “We promised unprecedented access for race fans, and each year we challenge ourselves to honor that commitment in innovative ways,” said Steve Gaffney, Vice President of marketing for Sprint. Sprint has been making an impact for sure, in NASCAR, and are truly trying to give back to the fans by giving them more and more access each year through promotions such as the Sprint Unlimited.
Several drivers are excited to see what the race will hold as fans will determine how the race will be run. Carl Edwards said, “fans have unlimited access and unlimited input in this event… everyone in the garage [is] really [going to] drive our hearts out and make this a really great event. Everybody in the garage will be paying attention to their phones and online trying to keep up with what’s going on with those votes.” Edwards continued to go on and say that this is going to take fan involvement to the next level and “you’ll see more autographs being signed because everyone will want the fans on their side.”
In addition, a driver not new to rule changes and racing in the first race of the year, Jeff Gordon, had some points to make about how we will see a different race this year. “Fans could vote to eliminate cars toward the back of the field, which might eliminate you. So you really can’t afford to be conservative” Gordon mentioned, every driver is going to have to race hard each lap in order to stay alive and in the race this year. Fans will be able to vote up to six drivers out of the race in increments of two (0,2,4, or 6), which will be implemented before the final segment of the race. During today’s announcement it was unclear if the number of cars will be based on the total amount started, 22, or how many are running at that point. Sprint and NASCAR said they would release those specifications as we get closer to the race.
As Speedweeks at Daytona approach, NASCAR teams and drivers are preparing for the biggest unknown of the season, the Sprint Unlimited. The voting lines are now open, NASCAR.com or the mobile app, and the deadlines for each vote are listed below. There will also be a new trophy to be unlived within the few weeks, which a fan will be able to present to the race winner. Some other ways fans are getting involved during the race include that fans will be the grand marshal, honorary starter, delivery the trophy to victory lane, or participate in driver introductions. Furthermore, fans at the track will be able to vote on the starting line-up which will either be: 2012 points, practice speeds, or by car number. As many on the tour have said, we can throw out the car number because Dale Jr. is in the 88 and would be second to last for the green flag, but we will have to wait and see. For more information on the race fans can visit: NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited.