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NASCAR: Coble's Racing Notes

SPEED goes away to make room for Fox Sports 1

Posted: August 13, 2013 - 9:49am

One of the final memories many people at SPEED will have is the sight of their corporate sign being removed on Harris Boulevard in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday.

Many of those workers already knew this was their final week at the network. The newly-branded Fox Sports 1 will assume some of SPEED’s racing programming, as well as a variety of other college and pro sports.

The official switch will come at 6 a.m. on Saturday.

A lot of SPEED’s programming, including “Wind Tunnel,” has been scuttled. Other shows that will go away include: “Dumbest Stuff on Wheels,” “Wrecked,” “Pass Time,” “R U Faster than a Redneck” and “Monster Jam.”

Besides the loss of jobs and racing-related shows, the switch to Fox Sports 1 hasn’t come without some obstacles.

Bright House, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network are some of the TV distributors that still don’t have a contract to carry Fox Sports 1. Those outlets make up 54 percent of the country’s television market.

If those distributors don’t come to terms with Fox Sports 1, some of the live NASCAR broadcasts still will be shown on the old SPEED channel.

Fox Sports 1 will continue to carry the Camping World Truck Series. It also has plans to broadcast selected Nationwide and Sprint Cup series races in 2015. The network also has a new five-year deal to carry the entire IMSA sports car series with the newly-formed United SportsCar Racing.

Road courses becoming more popular with drivers

Jimmie Johnson had so much fun racing last weekend at Watkins Glen International, he wouldn’t mind if a road course was included into the 10-race Chase for the Championship.

“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings, but there are others much higher up the food chain than myself, that make those decisions,” he said.

Years ago, road course races were dominated by a handful of drivers. Now it seems to be more open to other drivers. The two winners this year were Martin Truex Jr. (at Sonoma, Calif.) and Kyle Busch (Watkins Glen).

“You’d probably have a mixed opinion from drivers as to who would want it and who would not,” Johnson said. “I think a factor to consider would be attendance and viewership; and for whatever reason, we seem to slip a little in viewership and attendance when we get to a road course event.”

Johnson admitted ovals, especially the 1.5-mile tracks, are better suited for the playoffs.

“The ovals seem to be stronger in what our core fans like to see and experience, so I think the decision is more inside of that than anything,” he said. “But if it was on personal opinion, I wouldn’t have a problem with it at all.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. never has been a fan of turning right and left on a road course. After crashing last Sunday at Watkins Glen, he still doesn’t like them – and he certainly doesn’t want one in the Chase.

“They’re fun to watch,” he said. “If you could put aside your feelings about wanting to finish well, win or points then they are kind of fun to be in. I, myself, I’m just one guy, but I like ovals a lot better than road courses.”

Pit stops

As expected, Michael Waltrip Racing announced Tuesday that Brian Vickers will drive the No. 55 Toyota next year. He will drive on a full-time basis and compete for a championship, Waltrip said. Mark Martin, who drives the car on a limited basis, will be out of a ride after this season … The sale of Phoenix Racing is complete. Harry Scott Jr., a co-owner of Turner-Scott Motorsports, will assume control of the No. 51 Chevrolet when the Sprint Cup Series goes to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the AdvoCare 500 on Sept. 1.