In the corner of TV screens tuned to Speed, an ominous sign appeared over the weekend.
Speed's familiar red logo was still there, but it was attached to the FOX Sports logo, which hovered over it like a UFO ready to engage its tractor beam.
The new combined logo seemed to confirm all the various reports motorsports fans hoped would not be true: That parent company FOX is planning to convert Speed into an all-sports network to rival ESPN. In doing so, much of the motorsports content racing fans love could disappear.
When exactly this would happen – and to what degree – is unclear. Even those at Speed don't know. But anyone hailing the end of scripted reality shows like Hard Parts: South Bronx and Wrecked must also understand this: The demise of Speed will be a bigger loss for racing than we can grasp right now.
Let's start with NASCAR. While the live programming such as qualifying, practices and Truck Series races could live on, it seems unlikely the ancillary shows like Trackside, RaceDay and Victory Lane will all be able to maintain the same presence when the lineup is crowded with baseball, UFC, college football and soccer.
What about the daily Race Hub show? What about SPEED Center? What about Wind Tunnel?
Even if you don't watch those shows every single time they're on, it's good for NASCAR and racing in general to have a constant TV presence for when fans want information.
Plus, fans will miss the people. Speed's TV personalities are regulars in most NASCAR households around the country – and usually a welcome presence at that.
Think about it: Fans know people like Rutledge, Wendy, Kenny, Kyle, J.R., D.W., Larry, Jimmy, Bob, Krista, Danielle, Steve, Matt, and Adam without even the mention of a last name.
In particular, the loss of Speed's post-race coverage would be crushing to anyone who enjoys seeing their favorite drivers react after a race. Speed often gathers interviews and footage no one else airs, and it's resulted in some significant stories – Carl Edwards' mock punch toward Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch's not-so-subtle threat to Bob Pockrass are two examples.
Even if NASCAR.com steps up to cover that ground, will it air stories that could be viewed as unfavorable to the sport?
Aside from NASCAR coverage, motorsports fans in general rely on Speed for coverage of Formula 1, sports car racing, V8 Supercars, Supercross and more. What will happen to those series when FOX changes Speed to a general sports channel?
Even if NASCAR makes its own channel, that won't replace Speed. It would take years of battles with cable companies and satellite providers before a NASCAR Network could reach as many households as Speed does, and fans would have to spend more money to find it.
FOX has a business to run, but the company comes across as especially callous toward the motorsports world in this situation. Those at Speed worked their butts off to build the network into something worth carrying on the basic tier of many cable systems nationwide, only to look up and see the parent company circling it like a vulture.
When FOX swoops in and makes the change, it will be a sad day – not just for those who work at Speed, but for all race fans.