Live Television A Game Changer For The NHRAby Hunter Thomas January 30, 2016 0 comments
The NHRA’s new partnership with FOX Sports will change the way fans follow the sport.
In years past, NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events would be televised on major networking channels like ESPN, but the broadcast would be taped delayed, and the only way to keep up with what was going on at the track is if you knew someone who was attending the event or if you were following along online. The new live broadcast will not only show fans what’s happening on the track, but it will also capture the emotions in the pits and everywhere in-between.
“What it really means for live racing for our sport is now the fans are going to be able to see what’s happening right now,” said two-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel champion, Antron Brown. “It’s what our sport has been missing for years, and what you’re going to do now is you’re going to see a new fresh approach, and with the TV package, the way it’s going to be structured, you’re going to see stuff from the inside stuff that you don’t normally see: What’s happening in the pits, and what goes on from the pits to the starting line. You’re actually going to see the whole, real story unfold in front of your eyes instead of just watching cars go down the racetrack.”
In 2016, NHRA’s top drivers will compete live on the FOX national network for the first time in NHRA history. Out of the 17 live events, four of them will broadcast live on the FOX national network. The events include the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals (July 24), Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals (July 31), NHRA Northwest Nationals (August 7) and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals (September 5).
“We’ve introduced a new television package with FOX, and it includes 17 live events,” said NHRA Vice President of Public Relations and Communications, Terry Blount. “We’ve experimented with live events over the last couple of years. We’ve found the perfect formula on how they work, and we’re really, really proud and excited to have 17 live events this year, and four of those live events will be on the FOX network, and that’s the first time in NHRA history that we’ll have live events on network broadcast.”
Last year, 120 hours of NHRA action made its way to television, but with the new partnership with FOX Sports, over 500 hours of programming is planned for the upcoming season. Dave Rieff will lead the announcing efforts in the television booth. Tony Pedregon will be the race analyst, and Bruno Massel and Jamie Howe will call the race from the pit area.
“The TV program is a game changer,” Pedregon said. “It really is, and the partnership with FOX and what little I’ve seen in the early stages, it really changes the dynamic of the sport because as a former team owner, I’ve met in plenty of board rooms, and that’s the first thing – the one thing that stands out above anything else.”
The new bureau based in Indianapolis, the heart of NHRA country, as well as the studio that will be located in Glendora will also contribute to the reporting and content seen on television and NHRA.com throughout the season.
“We’re going to have a bureau in Indianapolis where most of our teams are based,” Blount said. “John Kernan is going to be there, where most of y’all know him from all of his years at ESPN on RPM Tonight. We’re also going to have a studio that we’re building in our offices in Glendora that are going to be doing videos and features there as well. The broadcast of what you’ve seen in the past and what it’s going to be this year, trust me, it’s going to be dramatically different than anything we’ve had before, and going live for us is a real game changer.”
Throughout the decades, motorsports in general has bounced around from network-to-network. In 2001, NASCAR made its move to FOX and it was also a game changer. The NHRA is hoping that the new deal will have similar success as its fans will finally get to see what goes on at the track on most weekends. It’s also an opportunity for the racing series to reach out to the younger demographic as they introduce them to the world of drag racing.
Photo Credit: Tommy Dampier