ESPN's ad sales for its '11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage are "trending better than in recent years," according to Ourand & Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. ESPN said that ad sales around its Cup coverage, which begins Sunday with the Brickyard 400, "are pacing ahead of last year as a result of spending across the telecommunications, autos, insurance and medicinal categories." The network "saw increased interest from advertisers for its 'NASCAR Nonstop' offering, which allows a company to present a split-screen commercial break during the Chase for the Sprint Cup." Ad buyers contend that the NFL lockout "has had little to do with ESPN’s sales success in NASCAR." Buyers indicated that ESPN "has been helped by an increase in ratings for NASCAR programming over the first half of the season." Ourand & Mickle note ESPN "will look to extend that ratings momentum over the back half of the season and reverse the major ratings declines it saw" last season. Buyers have "confidence that ESPN will see improved NASCAR ratings," but they also "cautioned that the sport has room to grow" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/25 issue).
ANIMATED DISCUSSION: NASCAR.com today is expected to announce that it will offer animation video coverage of three Nationwide Series races beginning with this weekend's Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. The coverage will be available on the site's TrackPass RaceView application, which will offer six virtual camera angles for every car, in-car audio, position tracker, live telemetry and real-time race statistics for the entire race. Saturday's race will feature the Nationwide Series debut of Travis Pastrana. The other two Nationwide races TrackPass will cover will be the Aug. 13 Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen Int'l and the Sept. 9 Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Int'l Raceway. NASCAR.com today also launched a new homepage for the Nationwide Series, which offers live chat features and incorporates a social media feed (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).
TRACKING THE CHANGES: In Orlando, Beth Kassab reported ISC Vice Chair & CEO Lesa France Kennedy lately "has taken on a higher profile as the tracks she runs try to reconnect with fans." As part of her "more public role, she now always leads the company's quarterly earnings call with investors, analysts and the media instead of tapping her top lieutenants to do so." France Kennedy's "biggest imprint so far is the construction of a casino at Kansas Speedway that is scheduled to open early next year." She said, "That's one of the most exciting projects we have right now on the board. This is going to be a really interesting model to take a look at land surrounding our tracks." Kassab noted a "retail development across the street from Daytona International Speedway and next to the headquarters of ISC and NASCAR remains on hold until the economy improves." France Kennedy: "That's really prime real estate. When we land on something it needs to be the right situation for the very long term." Another top focus for ISC is "making inroads with new, younger fans" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/25).