NASCAR Notes - Recent ratings sag due to caution-flag finishes?

Posted: Wednesday, July 07, 2004

JOLIET, Ill. -- With declining television ratings and rising discontent among fans, NASCAR is expected to change its rules to guarantee a green flag finish on the Nextel Cup Series.

Many teams were surprised the "green-white-checkered" rule wasn't invoked in time for this Sunday's Tropicana 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. Regardless, everyone knows it's coming, especially after four out of the last nine races ended under caution.

But that doesn't mean drivers like it.

"They tell us 500 miles, or 400 miles, or 500 laps or whatever," Ken Schrader said. "That ought to be the deal. We base everything we do on that race distance. That's our base. I can see fans wanting green flag finishes and I don't blame them for wanting that -- and I don't blame NASCAR for wanting to give it to them. But it's like changing the rules in the middle of the race, the end of the race."

FOX just completed its broadcasting portion of the NASCAR season, and the ratings dropped significantly from the previous three seasons. Television and racing officials aren't sure if the rash of yellow flag finishes or another made-for-television rule change, the "Chase for the Championship" were the causes.

FOX's overall ratings during 16 of the first 17 races -- NBC did the season-opening Daytona 500 -- was a 5.6 share. Ratings for the last three years, however, was a 5.8 share.

The "Chase" now breaks the 36-race season into two segments -- the first 26 races establish the top 10 drivers, then those select drivers compete for the championship in the final 10 races. FOX broadcasts the first half of the season, meaning all of its telecasts came during the qualifying portion of the "Chase for the Championship."

Richard Petty, the sport's all-time winningest driver, said creating a situation that guarantees a green flag finish over the final two laps is dangerous. He said NASCAR first veered off course a year ago by not letting drivers race back to the flagstand during a caution period.

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