ATLANTA -- Starting Saturday, stock car racing will zoom into America's living room faster than a Roger Clemens fastball and with the same fanfare as a Mike Piazza home run trot during the World Series.
NASCAR's new $2.6 billion television contract has elevated the popular racing series to the major leagues, so Major League Baseball will become the forum to jump-start coverage plans for the racing series on Fox Sports.
Five drivers filmed commercials that will be played during the World Series between the New York Mets and New York Yankees to promote Fox's racing plans in 2001.
The new contract, which more than tripled current income from television rights, is the second-richest in professional sports. Only the National Football League has a better deal from ABC, CBS, Fox and ESPN.
Starting next year, racing will move to Fox, NBC, FX and TBS. To make sure fans are aware of the change, Fox Sports will run commercials during the World Series and throughout the rest of the NFL season to trumpet their commitment to stock car racing.
''To be part of a national promotion like this is a real honor,'' said John Andretti, one of the drivers who will be featured during the Fall Classic.
Other drivers used in the commercials are Jeremy Mayfield, Sterling Marlin, Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip.
Fox and its general entertain ment network, FX, will televise the first half of the Winston Cup and Busch series schedule. NBC and TBS will work the second half, while Fox shifts back to the NFL and Major League Baseball.
''I think everybody is pretty excited with what Fox and with what NBC can bring to the table
for everyone associated with NASCAR,'' Mayfield said. ''CBS, ABC, ESPN and TNN have done a lot for us and we're going to miss them a lot. But you have to be excited about the future, too.''
The first race next year is the Bud Shootout all-star race at the Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 11. Former driver Darrell Waltrip and former crew chiefs Larry McReynolds and Jeff Ham mond already have been signed by Fox as color commentators.
NBC is still putting together its on-air talent, but it's expected that current Motor Racing Network radio play-by-play announcer Allen Bestwick will handle the same duties on television.
Since NASCAR has become such a major investment, the networks aren't waiting until next February to get to work. NBC will have most of its crew working a ''shadow'' broadcast at the Dura Lube 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway next month. In short, the race will be a dress rehearsal.
The race also will give NBC a chance to test its ''Go-Cam,'' the same camera used at the Olympics for Alpine skiing. The camera is mounted on a cable and can run at car-level at the same speed to provide a unique perspective of the sport.
The way television displays a race is certain to change. Fox gained a reputation for revolution izing the way football is aired, and the network is certain to cut its own path when it tackles auto racing. However, Fox and NBC officials know the race remains the most important issue.
''That's one thing I can guarantee we won't do,'' said Sam Flood, NBC race producer. ''The race is the thing. We're going to be there to cover the races, not to just put in bells and whistles. It's our job to enhance the coverage and not get in the way of it.''
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