SBD/February 22, 2013/NASCAR Season Preview

Fox Could See Ratings Boost Due To Danica, But Resisting Going All In With Her

Patrick's No. 10 Go Daddy Chevy will be one of Fox' eight in-camera cars on Sunday
Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks is being "careful not to over-promise" on coverage around Danica Patrick sitting on the pole position for Sunday's Daytona 500, according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The net will have a "pre-race feature allowing her to talk about her week in a first-person format." But outside of giving some historical context, Fox "will not divert from any other hysteria the race itself draws naturally." Fox knows Patrick's No. 10 Go Daddy Chevy will be "one of its eight in-camera cars," and she "may be one of three drivers also supplied with a Gyro-Cam, but that will be determined Saturday." The Gyro-Cam is a device "mounted in the center of the cockpit that tilts with every high-banked turn." Shanks said, "You can't let one thing take over. You won't be seeing an hour-long preview featuring what Danica had for breakfast and what we think she's going to have for lunch. I'm not sure on Monday morning whether we'll be able to pinpoint any one particular thing that ... will attract viewers to this" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/22). But USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes Fox could not have "ordered up a better scenario" than having Patrick on the pole. She gives Fox a "green light to go gaga over her as long as she's in the race." Meanwhile, Shanks said Fox will have "the most gadgets and gizmos we've ever had on any event." Shanks said that "wrinkles in the coverage will include new 'eye candy,' such as a camera suspended on cables that will zip above the backstretch at about 85 miles per hour." Also added is a camera graphic that can "superimpose 3-D images on the race track, like the virtual first-down lines seen in TV football, to indicate such things as restart lines." Hiestand notes Fox also will "deploy Erin Andrews for the first time on Daytona coverage" to conduct a "pit walk" before the start of the race (USA TODAY, 2/22).

SHE CAN DRAW A CROWD: In Indianapolis, Anthony Schoettle wrote if Patrick can "parlay that top qualification into a good race-day performance, it could be just the boost NASCAR needs," as TV ratings will be "up considerably for the first part of the race." If Patrick can "stay out of trouble and stay up front for much of the race, TV ratings for the race -- especially late in the race -- could go up 10 percent" (IBJ.com, 2/18). In Philadelphia, Bill Fleischman writes having Patrick in the poll position "surely will attract casual fans who are curious to see how she does in the race." Fleischman: "Hel-lo, higher TV ratings" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/22).

DUELING UNDER THE LIGHTS: Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood Thursday announced that the Budweiser Duel at Daytona, the pair of 150-mile qualifying races that determine the Daytona 500 starting lineup, will be run in primetime in '14. Fox Sports Media Group will broadcast the Feb. 20 event (DIS). In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis reports the "only shocker was that it took this long to make the move -- they've had lights here for 15 years, after all" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/22).
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