Media Tour Stop No. 4: Shorter NASCAR Races Needed, Fox Sports Chairman Says

Fox Sports chairman David Hill called for shorter NASCAR races and pledged to put the focus back on the drivers during an interview session with reporters late Monday night.

Hill, an outgoing Australian with a booming voice, immediately answered "Oh yeah, definitely...absolutely" when asked if the length of NASCAR races should be reduced.

"I think the racing is far too long," he said. "Right now, there are more opportunities for (other activities) than any other time in man's history. I think that a lot of the races are too long. I think probably three hours would be ideal."

Hill's desire for shorter races is somewhat surprising, since many people believe the television networks don't mind the longer races so they can sell more commercials.

But Hill said a 30-to-40-minute pre-race show, three-hour race broadcast and 15-minute post-race wrapup would be ideal.

And that was just one of many topics the influential Hill touched on. Among the others:

–– Focus on the drivers. Hill set the Fox/Speed agenda for this season as one that will put the spotlight back onto the drivers.

"What this sport is all about is the drivers," he said. "Everything else in NASCAR is an afterthought. People follow the sport because the drivers are heroes.

"The Car of Tomorrow became the greatest red herring in the history of this sport. It took the emphasis away from the heroes. And what we're trying to do with our programming is move it back."

Asked specifically how Fox and Speed would achieve that goal, Hill said he didn't know yet.

"I'll figure it out," he said with a smile. "We've got three weeks to go yet."

–– Consistent start times. Hill said he's happy with the consistent start times and didn't give any indication he wanted to see change in that area.

He said he believed every Truck race should be on a Friday night, every Nationwide should be run on a Saturday night and the Cup race should start at 1 p.m. on most Sundays – all for the sake of familiarity.

Hill compared it to the NFL – every start time is the same, and fans know there's also a game each Sunday and Monday night.

There are "too many other things going on in people's lives" to expect fans to memorize all the various start times otherwise, he said.

NASCAR President Mike Helton indicated last week that the sanctioning body is looking at changing start times for some of its races.

–– Renewing Fox's TV rights deal with NASCAR. Hill deflected questions about whether he was interested in pursuing a new TV deal with NASCAR when the current one expires (Fox is entering the fifth year of its eight-year NASCAR contract).

The chairman said he would "absolutely" like to continue the relationship, but said NASCAR was "not as good as it was" in terms of being good business for Fox. He wouldn't make any commitments, adding "three years is a long time" to predict what might happen.

–– A lack of appreciation for Jimmie Johnson. Along with Hill's perceived lack of focus on the drivers, he said there was a dearth of excitement in the media over Johnson's five straight titles.

"It's one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in world sport, and everyone's treating it as ho-hum!" Hill said, practically yelling. "You people are treating it as ho-hum: 'Oh yes, he's won again.' You are so blasé. Honestly, what's wrong with you? Don't you realize what Jimmie Johnson has achieved?"

–– Online streaming. Don't look for Fox's race broadcasts to be streamed online anytime soon. Hill said he liked the idea of delivering a "sensational" viewing experience to homes with HD TV sets and surround sound – an entertainment value the viewer can't get on a mobile device.

Hill said watching NASCAR on a mobile phone would be like seeing tiny dots go around in a circle. To that end, he said "we've got no imminent plans" go stream race broadcasts online.

–– A new points system. Hill, who said he's been covering motorsports since he was 17 years old, is in favor of NASCAR changing the points system – particularly if it awards winning more than it has.

"The points didn't emphasize winning enough," he said. "The hero was the one who won – not three points here, seven points here. Listen, sports are about winning."

–– TV ratings. Hill, who said he believes Fox has "the best auto coverage in the world," said he's concerned when ratings drop in any sport.

He said he'll be watching ratings for the first three races of this season to see if NASCAR has made any progress in reversing the decline in significant demographics.

He also said NASCAR is "trying desperately" to get out of its current slump.

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