Nothing "funny" about moving tail end of NASCAR race to ESPN2
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With the second-to-last race in the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" reaching its climactic point and Jimmie Johnson on the verge of clinching his record-tying third consecutive series championship, viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones were stunned to see the remaining 34 laps of Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway switched from ABC to ESPN2.
ABC made the decision to continue its coverage of the race on their sister network in order to air an episode of "America's Funniest Home Videos" at 7:30 p.m. (et). The race remained on ABC in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
"After two red flags, rain in Phoenix and 4 1/2 hours on ABC, we were still 34 minutes from the end of the telecast as it turned out," ESPN spokesman George McNeilly said in a statement. "We told fans in the East and Central from the second red flag on that the race was moving to ESPN2. ABC's entertainment viewers and NASCAR fans were both well served in a tough spot, and we are fortunate to have ESPN2 among our networks to serve the fans."
Though Johnson dominated at Phoenix, leading 217 of 313 laps, the race concluded with Kurt Busch making a last ditch effort to catch Johnson in a green-white-checkered finish and Carl Edwards rallying for a fourth-place finish to barely remain alive in the championship hunt.
The remaining 34 laps of Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 were moved from ABC to ESPN2.
For ABC to pull the plug on the race in half of the country to show funny home videos was not only a joke, but also a disgrace to NASCAR and its fans.
And some in the sport would agree with that.
"It seems a little odd to me as big as NASCAR is and as many people watch the sport, I can't imagine being a race fan and being on the East Coast and trying to watch this and then going to that," driver Jamie McMurray said after his third-place finish at Phoenix. "I mean, maybe if the President was going to talk, maybe if something big had happened, but I can't believe that 'America's Funniest Home Videos' would take priority over us."
Even Johnson echoed a similar sentiment.
"Well, I thought it went dark and nobody could watch it," he said. "So the fact that it was on another television channel was, I mean, it's better. It's still somewhat on a prime channel of course on ABC, but to go to 'America's Funniest Home Videos,' that one hurts, no doubt. I thought we have a lot of characters. Why do we need that show?"
Sure NASCAR is different from your usual stick-and-ball sport, but what sense does it make to switch a race from one network to another when the event is still ongoing.
CBS and FOX do not interrupt their coverage of football for their regularly scheduled prime-time programming on Sundays.
The start time for next Sunday's season-finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. (et). Let's just hope there are no weather issues in South Florida, so ABC can air the race in its entirety and show the trophy presentation to the Cup championship.
With Johnson taking a 141-point lead into Homestead and needing to finish only 36th or better to clinch the title, it would be a shame if the network skips out on airing a historic moment for NASCAR to show videos of some kid falling off his bicycle or a cat getting tangled up in a ball of yarn.
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