The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, which in May announced the addition of Chicago and Kansas City to its 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule, Tuesday confirmed the complete event lineup for next season.
Additionally, new television rights holders Fox Sports, FX, NBC Sports and TBS Superstation announced coverage plans, which include a record 28 NASCAR Winston Cup Series events on network television and 10 races on cable with FX and TBS Superstation, which has covered NASCAR annually since 1984.
The 2001 schedule will be expanded to 36 championship point events -- from 34 -- as well as its two traditional non-championship point events: The Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway and The Winston at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"Racing is racing, and I would rather race then do anything else," said John Andretti, who will drive the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge in 2001 for Petty Enterprises. "I think you have to look at it from the point that if we are not racing, we are testing somewhere. The time we do get off, we are not actually getting that time 'off' -- we are just not racing. We are still at a race track or at the wind tunnel testing and trying new things. The way I see it is that I would rather be racing then out somewhere testing."
Along with the two new venues added for the 2001 season, the only other change to the schedule involves the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway moving to a Sunday for the first time. Previously held on Saturday, the eighth annual event will be held on Sunday, Aug. 5.
"There are fans out there who are absolutely starved for races," said Petty Enterprises driver/owner Kyle Petty, who will drive the No. 45 Sprint Dodge in 2001. "They want events, they deserve events and we need to give them events -- we need to put on a show for them. Television has been carrying us into places like Chicago and Kansas City for years, but these people want the real thing too.
"This helps bring new fans and new sponsors into our sport. More interest is always good."
As part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series new television package, the 2001 network schedule will offer viewers more than twice the number of races that had been televised in any prior season. The 2000 network television schedule includes 11 events.
Fox Sports kicks off its inaugural season of NASCAR coverage with 11 straight weeks of telecasts, beginning with the non-points Bud Shootout event on Feb. 11 and the championship point season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.
Fox Sports will air 15 NASCAR Winston Cup Series events in 2001.
Fox Sports' cable partner FX will offer three events live, including back-to-back prime time telecasts -- on May 5 from Richmond International Raceway and The Winston, NASCAR's annual all-star event, on May 19.
In addition, Fox Sports Net will offer for the first time ever live television coverage of the Gatorade 125-Mile Qualifying Races, the annual qualifiers for the Daytona 500, which are scheduled for Feb. 15. These events had previously been telecast on a tape-delayed basis by CBS Sports.
The NBC Sports/TBS Superstation joint venture to cover NASCAR racing in 2001 begins with NBC's coverage of the Pepsi 400, the prime time event from Daytona International Speedway that is scheduled for July 7. NBC Sports' package will include 13 NASCAR Winston Cup Series events, including the inaugural runs at the Chicagoland Speedway and the Kansas Speedway and nine of the last 10 events on the 2001 schedule.
TBS Superstation will present seven NASCAR Winston Cup Series events. Highlighting TBS' schedule is four consecutive weeks of coverage that begins Aug. 18 at Michigan International Speedway.
Additional NASCAR Winston Cup Series programming -- including qualifying, practices, happy hour -- and network talent selections, viewer enhancements and other TV-related announcements will be made by Fox Sports, FX and Fox Sports Net and the NBC Sports/TBS Superstation joint venture in the near future.
"The 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule, by virtue of the two new events and the total integration being brought to the sport by our new television partners means that fans across the country will have more access and greater exposure to our drivers, teams and tracks than ever before," said Mike Helton, senior vice president and chief operating officer for NASCAR.
The 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule will include stops at 23 tracks across the country in 19 different states.
The Kansas Speedway is a 75,000-seat 1.5-mile facility in Kansas City, Kan., that delivers a significant portion of the Central U.S. population with an estimated 21 million people within a 300-mile radius of the facility.
The Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5-mile trioval in Joliet, Ill. The Chicago market ranks as the third largest in the United States with a population exceeding eight million. It ranks second in the number of Fortune 500 company headquarters, including more than 20 companies that have an affiliation in NASCAR such as popular brand names Gatorade, True Value, McDonald's and Sears/Craftsman.
"So much of professional sports has become big business, so big markets and important markets are a key part of that," said Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Ford. "Adding Chicago and Kansas City to our schedule is just going to be a good thing for everyone. The schedule is going to be busier, that's for sure, but I think the tradeoff for our fans and for our sponsors is going to be worth that."
Date Track Television
Feb. 11 Daytona International Speedway (Bud Shootout*) FOX
Feb. 15 Daytona International Speedway (Gatorade 125s**) Fox Sports Net
Feb. 18 Daytona International Speedway FOX
Feb. 25 North Carolina Speedway FOX
Mar. 4 Las Vegas Motor Speedway FOX
Mar. 11 Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX
Mar. 18 Darlington Raceway FOX
Mar. 25 Bristol Motor Speedway FOX
Apr. 1 Texas Motor Speedway FOX
Apr. 8 Martinsville Speedway FOX
Apr. 22 Talladega Superspeedway FOX
Apr. 29 California Speedway FOX
May 5 Richmond International Raceway FX
May 19 Lowe's Motor Speedway (The Winston*) FX
May 27 Lowe's Motor Speedway FOX
June 3 Dover Downs Int'l Speedway FOX
June 10 Michigan International Speedway FX
June 17 Pocono Raceway FOX
June 24 Sears Point Raceway FOX
July 7 Daytona International Speedway NBC
July 15 Chicagoland Speedway NBC
July 22 New Hampshire Int'l Speedway TBS
July 29 Pocono Raceway TBS
Aug. 5 Indianapolis Motor Speedway NBC
Aug. 12 Watkins Glen International NBC
Aug. 19 Michigan International Speedway TBS
Aug. 25 Bristol Motor Speedway TBS
Sept. 2 Darlington Raceway TBS
Sept. 8 Richmond International Raceway TBS
Sept. 16 New Hampshire Int'l Speedway NBC
Sept. 23 Dover Downs Int'l Speedway NBC
Sept. 30 Kansas Speedway NBC
Oct. 7 Lowe's Motor Speedway NBC
Oct. 14 Martinsville Speedway TBS
Oct. 21 Talladega Superspeedway NBC
Oct. 28 Phoenix International Raceway NBC
Nov. 4 North Carolina Speedway NBC
Nov. 11 Homestead-Miami Speedway NBC
Nov. 18 Atlanta Motor Speedway NBC
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