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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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IndyCar Series / NASCAR / TV Ratings / TV / Auto Racing / Sports Business

New NASCAR start times pose difficult dilemma for IRL

October 8, 2009

The Indy Racing League is already facing a difficult decision for 2010.

The IRL is expected to release its television schedule this week, but NASCAR beat them to the punch with the announcement that the stock car series is going to an earlier, uniform start time for its races. That move will put NASCAR in direct conflict with several IRL races; notably St. Pete, Long Beach, Kansas, Iowa, Edmonton and Mid-Ohio.

If the goal is to avoid NASCAR Cup races, the IRL may need to move its start times. But not everyone agrees adjusting the times is the best course of action.

Some think the IRL would be best served by planning its events to best suit the local community where it is racing, and not worry about NASCAR.

That decision would likely please local promoters partnering with the IRL.

But Versus cable channel and the series’ other broadcast partners likely don’t see it that way. They know that going head-to-head with NASCAR, while it might be better for the fans and operators at the live event, could kill TV ratings. And we all know the IRL and Versus are having plenty of difficulty building TV viewership as it is.

Promoters argue that a vibrant live event is key to a telecast that attracts viewers. Ask the National Football League about that one.

So which master will the IRL serve? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. Which master(s) should the open-wheel series serve? That’s a matter of opinion.

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