NASCAR on television and radio

NASCAR on television and radio

The following is the history of the coverage of NASCAR racing on television and radio. Although coverage of NASCAR dates back to at least 1960, the first flag-to-flag coverage of the sport on television was in 1979.


Early years

One of the earliest telecasts of a NASCAR race was the 1960 Daytona 500, parts of which was presented as part of CBS Sports Spectacular, with announcer Bud Palmer.[1]

In the ensuing years, but before 1979, there were three main sources of NASCAR telecasts:

The following table is a list of races from NASCAR's top three series that have been broadcast partially or in their entirety on television during the 1960s.

Race Number Race Date Race Title Race Track Series Network Studio Host Studio Analysts Lap-by-Lap Commentator Analysts Pit Reporters Notes
2 of 44 February 12, 1960 100 Mile Qualifying Races Daytona International Speedway NASCAR Grand National Series CBS Bud Palmer First ever NASCAR broadcast.
3 of 44

Flag-to-flag coverage

CBS Sports President Neal Pilson and motor-sports editor Ken Squier believed that America would watch an entire stock car race live on television. On February 18, 1979, CBS presented the first flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500.[2] Richard Petty won NASCAR's crown-jewel race for the sixth time, but the big story was the post-race fight on the track's infield between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, who crashed together on the final lap while leading.[2] The race drew incredible ratings, in part due to the compelling action both on and off the track, and in part because a major snowstorm on the East Coast kept millions of viewers indoors.

As time passed, more Winston Cup races ended up on TV. ESPN broadcast its first race in 1981, from North Carolina Motor Speedway[3] (its first live race was later in the year at Atlanta International Raceway), and TNN followed in 1991. All Cup races were nationally televised by 1985; networks struck individual deals with track owners, and multiple channels carried racing action. Many races were shown taped and edited on Wide World of Sports and syndication services like Mizlou and SETN, but almost all races were live by 1989. By 2000, the last year of this arrangement, six networks televised at least one Cup series race: CBS, ABC, ESPN, TNN, TBS, and NBC. Also, a growing number of races in the Busch Grand National Series and Craftsman Truck Series were made available for broadcast, and some track owners even threw in support races in lesser series.

NASCAR wanted to capitalize on its increased popularity even more, so they decided that future deals would be centralized; that is, the networks would negotiate directly with NASCAR for a regular schedule of telecasts.

Fox Sports, FX, NBC and TNT

That deal was struck on December 15, 1999. Fox Sports, FX, NBC and TBS agreed to pay $2.4 billion for a new six-year package, covering the Winston/Nextel Cup Series and Busch Series schedules.

  • Fox and FX would televise race 1 through 16 of the 2001, 2003, and 2005 seasons and race 2 through 17 of the 2002, 2004, and 2006 seasons. Fox would air the Daytona 500 in the odd-numbered years and the Pepsi 400 in even-numbered years. All Busch Series races during that part of the season would also be on Fox/FX.
  • NBC and TBS would televise the final 17 races of the even-numbered years as well as the Daytona 500 and the last 18 races, including the Pepsi 400, of the odd-numbered years, as well as all Busch Series races held in that time of the year. In March 2001, Turner Sports moved the upcoming races scheduled to be shown on TBS to its sister network, TNT.[4]
  • The year-by-year alternating of the Daytona 500 was packaged with the additional events of Speedweeks. The Budweiser Shootout, Daytona 500 pole qualifying, Gatorade 125s/Duel, as well as the 300-mile Busch Series event. The network covering the Daytona 500 in a given season, also carried the those other events.

ESPN retained the rights to the Craftsman Truck Series through 2002 under a separate contract. Beginning in 2003, Speed Channel bought out the rest of ESPN's contract and became the exclusive broadcast home of that series.

Initially, practice and qualifying sessions would alter between Fox Sports Net and FX during the Fox/FX portion of the season and between TNT and CNNSI during the NBC/TNT portion of the season. By the end of 2002, SPEED had replaced Fox Sports Net and a deal was arranged with NBC/TNT to move most practice and qualifying sessions to SPEED as well using NBC/TNT's production team and SPEED graphics.

The centralized TV deal caused consternation among many longtime NASCAR fans. The biggest criticisms include an increase in commercial breaks, emphasis on the more popular drivers and teams to the exclusion of others, and the de-emphasis of actual racing coverage in exchange for more fluff and hype.

Fox/Speed Channel, ABC/ESPN, and TNT

Late in 2005, NBC announced that they no longer wanted to carry NASCAR races on their schedule. ABC/ESPN took the opportunity to regain the series. On December 12, 2005, NASCAR announced its next TV contract: eight years, $4.8 billion with Fox/Speed Channel, ABC/ESPN, and TNT.[5] This time, the deal bundles the Camping World Truck Series in with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series:

  • Fox shows the first 13 Cup races along with the Sprint Unlimited every year, including the Daytona 500. The package runs through the first weekend in June and the race at Dover International Speedway.
  • TNT, which split from former partner NBC, then picks up the coverage, with the next six telecasts, which currently covers the following tracks: Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma, Kentucky, Daytona (Coke Zero 400), and Loudon. The Coke Zero 400 was presented with limited commercial interruptions until 2013.[6]
  • ESPN then televises most of the rest of the schedule. Three Saturday-night races are on ABC under the Disney brand "ESPN on ABC". The Brickyard 400 begins the package. Formerly ESPN broadcast the first 6 and ABC under the ESPN on ABC banner broadcast the last 11, including the entire Chase for the Sprint Cup, but due to NASCAR moving up the start times to earlier in the day, conflicts with ABC's political programming have precipitated all but 3 races now on ESPN.
  • Speed Channel/Fox Sports 1 carries the Budweiser Duel, just before the Daytona 500, and the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
  • ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC carry all Nationwide Series races during this time. Typically four Nationwide races are on ABC, with the rest on ESPN or ESPN2. ESPN's return to NASCAR television took place at the Orbitz 300 on February 17, 2007.
  • Speed Channel moved two of its Camping World Truck Series races to Fox from 2007–09; usually, they were scheduled to be the California race and the spring race at Martinsville. Since 2010, all CWTS races are on Speed/FS1.
  • The Coors Light Pole qualifying sessions for Sprint Cup races air on FOX for the Daytona 500, SPEED/FS1 for the next 18 races, and alternating between SPEED/FS1 and ESPN2 for the remaining 17 races.
  • Sprint Cup Series practice sessions are on SPEED/FS1 exclusively for the first 19 races and alternate between SPEED/FS1 and ESPN2 for the remaining 17 races. SPEED/FS1 is guaranteed at least one session each weekend during the ESPN portion of the schedule.
  • Nationwide Series practice & qualifying alternates between SPEED/FS1 and ESPN2 throughout the entire season.
  • On the pay-per-view front, DirecTV premiered NASCAR Hot Pass at the 2007 Daytona 500. The package consists of four channels, each dedicated to a particular driver with team communications among the driver, crew chief, and spotter. From 2007–08, Hot Pass also had separate lap-by-lap announcers and color commentators for each channel.[7] In 2009 NASCAR Hot Pass became free, although without announcers, and on January 7, 2013, it was discontinued all together.[8]

NBC and FX no longer carried NASCAR as a result. NBC's departure was probably no surprise, given that it was paying $2.8 billion for six years of Sunday night telecasts of the National Football League. Most production members stayed with TNT. Both the new NFL and old NASCAR deals overlapped in 2006, which forced some postrace coverage at NBC races to air on CNBC. FX stopped airing sporting events from 2006 to 2010. (It did show the ninth inning of a rain-delayed Fox game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox when it conflicted with the start of the 2008 Subway Fresh Fit 500, as well as other games which have overrun into the starts of NASCAR races.)

The new contracts increased the amount of coverage from each weekend's races. When the 2007 season began, all practices for Sprint Cup Series races were televised, whereas only the final practice ("happy hour") was carried before. In addition, all Nationwide Series final practices and qualifying sessions were also shown; before, a few qualifying sessions were not seen and only a handful of practices were seen. Most, if not all, truck series time trials are also broadcast.

However, as the season progressed, the TV partners began to skip some non-race events. SPEED has passed on practice and qualifying coverage when it conflicts with Barrett-Jackson vintage car auction programming or other racing coverage. Also, outside of the July Daytona race weekend, coverage of a Thursday practice or qualifying session for any series is rare.

From 2007 to 2010, average race viewership has fallen from 7.85 million at its height to 5.99 million in 2010, according to the Sports Business Journal.[9]


The broadcast teams for each package are as follows:

  • Fox retained most of the same announcers that have worked for the network since 2001: Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Darrell Waltrip in the booth, pit reporters Steve Byrnes, Dick Berggren, and Matt Yocum; and prerace hosts Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond. Krista Voda moved up from Speed, and replaced Jeanne Zelasko as the fourth pit reporter, working all races. (That change was necessary because Major League Baseball on Fox, on which Zelasko also works, now lasts the entire season with the 2007 MLB contract.)
  • The ESPN/ABC team: There have been changes at the lead announcer. Jerry Punch started as announcer, but was replaced by Marty Reid and later by Allen Bestwick, who has the post currently. Others include Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree in the booth; Dave Burns, Jamie Little, and Mike Massaro in the pits. Punch now also works Pit Road, while Marty Reid announces Nationwide races and ESPN's IndyCar races. Coordinating producer Neil Goldberg returned to ESPN in 2007 after six years at Fox.
  • TNT kept Bill Weber as lap-by-lap announcer and Wally Dallenbach as analyst. After some speculation, Kyle Petty was revealed as the second analyst for the network's coverage on February 7, 2007.[10] He continued his role as an active NASCAR driver for two seasons before retiring from driving. Benny Parsons, who was an NBC/TNT analyst, died on January 16, 2007 and it is unclear if he would have returned to the booth in any event, as he had reportedly talked about retirement after 2006. The pit reporters are Yocum, Marty Snider, Ralph Sheheen, and Lindsay Czarniak. McReynolds, a booth analyst for Fox, is the pre-race analyst.[11] Weber also continues as host of the Countdown to Green pre-race show. Marc Fein joins McReynolds on a new "pre-pre-race" show called NASCAR on TNT Live.

Bill Weber was forced to leave TNT shortly before the 4th race of TNT's schedule. Officially, Turner says it was due to a personal matter; however USA Today reported that it was due to an incident at a hotel the night before the race. Ralph Sheheen stepped in as announcer for the last 3 races on TNT in 2009. Adam Alexander filled in on pit road for the last 2 races, before moving to the announcer booth for 2010 and beyond. Sheheen returned to pit road, where he remains today. The NASCAR on TNT Live show has been discontinued and morphed into an hour long Countdown to Green which is hosted by Alexander.

Future: FOX stays & NBC returns

On October 15, 2012, NASCAR and the Fox Sports Media Group (FSMG) announced a new $2.4 billion eight-year deal, a 30% increase from their previous deal.[12] On July 23, 2013, NASCAR and the NBC Sports Group announced a new $4.4 billion ten-year deal.[13][14][15] 10 days later on August 1, 2013, NASCAR and Fox extended and expanded their agreement, paying an additional $1.4 billion to do so, to complete NASCAR's new TV package through the 2024 season.[16][17] The new contract ends a partnership of 30 years with Turner Sports and NASCAR. NBC reportedly bid over 50% more than ESPN and Turner for their portion of the package, despite Turner & ESPN expressing interest about continuing their relationship with NASCAR.[18]

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

  • The first 16 points races will broadcast by FOX. 9 races, including the Daytona 500, will be broadcast on FOX with 7 races on Fox Sports 1.
  • The final 20 points races, including the Chase for the Sprint Cup, will be broadcast by NBC. 7 races will air on NBC and 13 will air on the NBC Sports Network.
  • The Sprint Unlimited will alternate between FOX (2015-2016) and Fox Sports 1 (2014, 2017-2024).
  • The Budweiser Duel races (now in primetime) and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race will air on Fox Sports 1.
  • Practice & qualifying rights will belong to the network group broadcasting the race.
  • All races will be live-streamed online.

NASCAR Nationwide Series

  • The first 14 races will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
  • The final 19 races will be broadcast by NBC. 4 races will be broadcast by NBC and the other 15 races will air on the NBC Sports Network.
  • Practice & qualifying rights will belong to the network broadcasting the race.
  • All races will be live-streamed online.

Other rights


Current broadcasts

Currently, three separate networks cover NASCAR races on radio:

From 2002—2006, all races were heard on XM channel 90 across the continental United States. In 2007, national satellite radio rights moved to Sirius channel 90. Among the programs on Sirius NASCAR Radio are a weekly program co-hosted by TV pit reporter Matt Yocum and Tony Stewart, and a morning drive time show with David Poole of the Charlotte Observer and Marty Smith of

Following the merger of XM and Sirius, Sirius NASCAR Radio is heard on the XM through the "Best of Sirius" package on channel 90.

All three networks also have affiliation deals with hundreds of local radio stations. Many stations sign with more than one of these networks to ensure coverage of the entire season.

Beyond the United States

While NASCAR does not produce a "world feed" broadcast, it does have 23 international broadcast partners. Among them are NTV, TSN, Premier Sports, Motorvision TV, Sportsnet, The Score, Bell TV, Speed Latin America, Fox Sports Latin America, ESPN Middle East, Fox Sports Australia, Sport Klub Poland, AB Moteurs, ESPN America, Viasat Motor, Sport TV3, StarHub, Dubai Sports Channel, SNTV, Fox Sports Asia[19] and American Forces Network.[20] Neo Sports in India start broadcasting NASCAR races in March 2010 at Martinsville.

All international broadcasts are directly taken from the domestic feed.


External links

  • Fox Sports
  • Speed Channel
  • Motor Racing Network
  • Performance Racing Network
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  • Sports Media Watch: NASCAR Ratings
  • Backseat Drivers Fan Council rates the media -- how did we do?