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NASCAR 2013 looks healthy after just 3 races

18 Mar 2013

The 2012 Nascar season started with great optimism in the garages after a thrilling 2011 Chase and a TV ratings increase for the first time since 2005. Yet, for each step forward, the sport seemed to take a step back last year. The season’s first and biggest race, the Daytona 500, was rained out and pushed back to Monday night. Then the old problems cropped up during the year: sponsorship departures, dwindling attendance and another drop in TV ratings. But now three races into 2013, the optimism is back thanks to a new car, a rich TV contract and a jolt from a Sprint Cup rookie. This time, Nascar might keep the momentum going.

Much of the good vibes revolve around TV. Yes, network ratings fell 4% last year (down 6% on cable), but Nascar extended its rights agreement with Fox in October for the first 13 races of each season. The new eight-year agreement is worth $2.4 billion, a 36% increase over Fox’s previous deal. Some Nascar insiders speculated that the sport might have to take a haircut in the new deal after the ratings declines, but they got a solid increase instead. “Television is arguably the most critical piece of Nascar because TV is where it gets its reach,” says Zak Brown, founder and head of JMI, which sells and manages motorsports sponsorships. “It is very encouraging that indicator is so strong."

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