NASCAR drivers react to possible 2004 date/time changes

January 28
, 2003

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NASCAR officials have said they are looking at some distinct schedule changes starting with the 2004 Winston Cup season. Some of those changes include the possibilities of more night races, and starting races later in the afternoon in the hopes of increasing national television audiences. Some observers have speculated on the possibilities of a Daytona 500 at night.

Here are what some NASCAR Winston Cup drivers had to say on the issue.

JOHN ANDRETTI, Driver, #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge:

"Night racing is great, but it depends on what night you're racing on. I wish all the races were on Saturday night. It's better for the drivers, the crews, and the fans. Places like Richmond, where all three top NASCAR divisions race and you pack it all in two days, is wonderful for the fans. The action never stops on the track, and they always have something to watch. Another great thing about Saturday night racing is that now you have another day (Sunday) in case of weather, for fans to travel home, and it gives teams a day off too. That might attract more fans to come to the races then. You usually also see higher television ratings for Saturday night races.

"A later start on Sundays are tough on the fans, and I don't know if you're benefiting them. You might get more people to watch on TV, but for the people in the stands who have to drive home from the track and go to work on Monday morning, it might be a bit harder on them. NASCAR

is always looking at the fans and ways to better the sport. They have to look at it to see if the benefit outweighs the reward for the fans. I don't want to see anything more difficult on the fans, and that's why I think Saturday night races are the best benefit.

"If you're going to run the Daytona 500 at night then you might as well move it to the last race of the year. That's how much of a change that would be. Anytime you talk about the Daytona 500, or races like the Southern 500 or even Indy 500, you are talking about tradition. You can't change the tradition of the Daytona 500. There is a sense of history to certain races. The Daytona 500 has history to it, and you just don't mess with tradition too much."

DERRIKE COPE, Driver, #37 Friendlyís Chevrolet:

"Iím pretty much for more night races. I like the night time races. They are exciting for the fans, and the fans like them too. The prime time slots might help us with the television numbers. There are a lot of positives.

"From a sponsorís standpoint, they are good not just because there might be better TV numbers but because those logos pop off so well. You can see the ĎFriendlyísí on our car pretty well but with a little creativity, thatís going to pop off even better in a night race - for the fans in the stands and the ones watching on television.

"Weather conditions play a pretty large factor. A night race at Rockingham in February is going to be pretty tough, but a Saturday night race in the summertime just about anywhere can be great. Saturday night races give the fans an extra day to get home, and it gives the teams some extra time off too.

"The mid-afternoon starts are a mixed bag. The way a lot of teams are structured right now, youíre looking at a chartered flight getting home a few hours later than it normally would on Sunday night. Thatís not always fun but itís not that big of a deal. It would tend to affect the smaller teams more from that standpoint. A team like mine, flying commercial, would have to spend an extra day traveling. From our point of view, that would tend to hurt some.

"A nighttime Daytona 500? Itís a hard question. There is just something about the 500 in the daytime. There is a February tradition there. The February weather in Daytona at night can be kind of cool. Now, for a team sponsored by an ice cream company like Friendlyís, cool goes with the territory - but it might be tough on some of the others.

"If they put me in charge of it, Iím going to leave Daytona like it is - the Daytona 500 on a February afternoon and the 400 on a summer night."

KEN SCHRADER, Driver, #49 BAM Racing/1-800-CALL-ATT Dodge:

"Saturday night is a good thing. Sunday nights would not be as good a deal. Saturday night racing gives fans and teams an extra day to get home, and it gives you a built-in rain date with Sunday. There are a lot of positives to Saturday night. As for negatives, I hear some weekly tracks in the South really get killed with Saturday night Winston Cup racing. We have a little track in Missouri and we donít see much difference if there is a Winston Cup race but I have heard some tracks saying it hurts them.

Iíd say a 3 oíclock or so start on some races wouldnít be the worst thing in the world, especially if it did help our TV rating. That would be highly preferable to a Sunday night race, and sending everyone out on the road at 11 oíclock on a Sunday night. Also, I like races that start in the day and end at night. I donít know if the races are better necessarily but traditionally there is a little more adjusting, which makes things a little more exciting.

"A Daytona 500 at night, well, I just donít want to see it. Some things you donít mess with. There is just a lot of tradition there. Daytona in February is not always t-shirt weather to begin with, so it could be pretty cold. And, to be honest, I like Daytona just the way it is."

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