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NASCAR Racing Notes

Racing’s up, but TV ratings are down

Posted: April 10, 2012 - 2:11pm

Most would agree the racing has been good this year in the Sprint Cup Series. There have been surprising, controversial and dominating endings in the first six races.

So why are television ratings down across the board?

A final rating of 4.3 for the April 1 race at the Martinsville Speedway continued a string of six declines in a row compared to last year, according the Nielsen Media Research.

Last year’s race at Martinsville drew at 4.4.

Based on Nielsen, there were 400,000 fewer people watching the race at Martinsville compared to 2011.

The ratings slide started with the season-opening Daytona 500. The original start was pushed back by 30 hours for rain. While Monday night’s rating of 8.0 was a considered an overwhelming success by fans, race officials and television executives, it still fell short of the 8.7 rating of a year ago.

More important more than two million people didn’t tune in after watching in 2011.

Television ratings are down across the board for most television shows, so NASCAR hasn’t triggered any alarms yet.

Drivers feel they’re doing their part by racing hard and being more personal with the fans. Now it’s up to fans to tune in.

Michigan speeds lightning fast

Everyone knew new pavement at the Michigan International Speedway would lead to faster speeds, but nobody expected straightaway speeds of more than 215 mph.

“This place is fast – I mean fast, fast,” Juan Pablo Montoya said after testing tires there last week. “Our minimum speed there was over 180 mph in the corner.”

Ryan Newman holds the track record with a qualifying lap of 194.232 mph. Most believe all 43 cars in the Michigan 400 on June 17 will surpass the record set in 2005 after it was repaved.

“I’m not that sure I want to go that fast,” Jeff Gordon said.

Montoya, Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch all tested tires for two day for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

Gordon likes the old, worn out pavement, but he agreed Michigan needed a new coat of asphalt. While he’s concerned with the speeds, the track’s two-mile, D-shaped configuration still drives the same.

“The track drives so similar to the way it did before and it’s going to have multiple grooves,” Gordon said. “The fact I am speaking positive about it and still enjoy the race track as much as I always have, I think is a sign where I rank on it. I rank it very high.”

Johnson’s Daytona car in graveyard

Hendrick Motorsports barely escaped major sanctions with Jimmie Johnson’s Daytona 500 car, so the race team isn’t going to push its luck.

The car was put in secluded lot on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s property, along with a lot of other retired and destroyed cars.

NASCAR officials originally suspended crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six races and docked Johnson 25 points after it determined the C-posts – the area between the roof and the trunk on the side of the car – had been pushed out.

The team had the points reinstated and the suspensions dropped in a final appeal with chief appellate officer John Middlebrook.

The car won’t be back on the track, car owner Rick Hendrick said.

Johnson’s car will join the car driven by Juan Pablo Montoya when he collided with a jet dryer during the Daytona 500.