Exciting Eldora and boring Brickyard illustrate NASCAR marketing dilemma

Unfortunately there still may be a price to play, and a significant one.

ESPN, the jilted 800-pound gorilla in the cable-sports market, may choose to significantly tone down its coverage of NASCAR on SportsCenter and other programming. It makes sense form a business standpoint: Why plug the opposition?

"NASCAR coverage on ESPN: Born: 1981. Died: 2015. (In lieu of flowers, please send condolences to @NHL)," tweeted Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch, reflecting the thoughts of many industry insiders.

"ESPN has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with NASCAR. We have tremendous respect for the France family, the drivers and all in the sport and wish them well," ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement. "We will continue to serve NASCAR fans through SportsCenter and our other news platforms as we continue to enhance our industry-leading collection of quality assets."

It will obviously become a wait-and-see deal.

Deitsch's tweet reflects the skeptical view of critics who saw ESPN tone down its NHL coverage after losing the rights to NHL games in 2004.

"John Skipper is as good as it gets in his organization, and we've had conversations," NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said. "Obviously you think about all those things, but the reality is they have to cover the big events that people watch every weekend. You never can predict the future, but we didn't think that was something that would hold us back from making this deal, that's for sure."

Kurt Busch an Indy Man?

Kurt Busch racing in the Indianapolis 500? Don't count it out. Busch certainly has it on his "to do" list.

Busch tested an IndyCar at the Brickyard in May, further piquing his interest in competing at that level despite the logistical hiccups involved with his NASCAR schedule and its longest race of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"It's something you want to do as a dream," Busch said. "Sometimes you have to throw away common sense when you have a dream, and to go and do it. We'll see if it turns out. A lot of guys would love to do it, but there's that 600-mile race you've got to do that same night. So that's the big focus for a stock-car guy."

Busch wasn't too shabby, turning in a speed of 218.20 mph on the 2.5-mile speedway.

Gifford on track

NASCAR's Drive for Diversity continues when Ryan Gifford makes his first national series start at Iowa Speedway for Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide race. Gifford will also drive the No. 2 Universal Technical Institute/NASCAR Technical Institute Toyota for Rev Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East-West race on Friday at Iowa.

"I'm really, really excited," Gifford said Tuesday during a teleconference. "I'm confident that I think I can get a good run. Just waiting on it to get here. It's kind of like the last day of school: it doesn't get here soon enough."

 

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