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Volume 24 No. 155
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Fox Sports Points To Last Year's Finish To NASCAR Season As Cause For Optimism

Fox hopes the momentum from last year's finish and a "host of new storylines this season" will be a "cause for optimism" during the '12 season, according to Erik Spanberg of NASCAR "rebounded in the TV ratings last season after five years of smaller audiences." Fox’ viewership grew by 9.7% in '11 to 8.6 million viewers each week. The "most noticeable change" for viewers this year is "likely to be the extreme makeover of the Hollywood Hotel." It will "include new video and camera features, including three screens behind the analysts offering more graphics and colors." After "dabbling in split-screen coverage last season during several races, Fox plans to try it again at the Daytona 500 and beyond." The format "provides viewers with more live racing as the screen is shared with commercials." Momentum is "shifting toward more split-screen racing coverage." All 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in '11 "featured ESPN's NonStop coverage, splitting the screen during the second half of each race." Fox Sports co-President & COO Eric Shanks said that Daytona and "at least several more races will use the format, but details have yet to be finalized" (, 2/23). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes driver Michael Waltrip "represents the biggest change this year in Fox's NASCAR coverage." He will join its pre-race show and "will pop up during races for give-and-take with big brother Darrell" (USA TODAY, 2/24).

BUD LIGHT: Fox finished with a 4.2 rating and 7.467 million viewers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Shootout last Saturday night for Kyle Busch’s win. Those figures are down 7% and 5%, respectively, from a 4.5 rating and 7.847 million viewers last year. The season-opening exhibition race did give Fox a win in primetime. The event has now seen a viewership decline for five straight years (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

Kyle Busch
Kurt Busch
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Dale Earnhardt Jr.

:'s Bob Pockrass noted driver Kurt Busch Thursday "apologized face-to-face to ESPN pit road reporter Dr. Jerry Punch as the two met with a television camera rolling for the first time since their infamous encounter last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway." The last time they met in a race-track garage, Busch "launched into a profanity-laced rant while waiting for Punch to interview him in the garage after his transmission broke in the opening laps" of the '11 season finale. Between Nationwide Series practices Thursday at Daytona Int'l Speedway, Punch "interviewed Busch during ESPN2's coverage." Busch said, "Let's just start off with a hug, Doc, c'mon. I'm so sorry with the way last year ended" (, 2/23).