We should write a NASCAR primer for F1F. I moved to the US 5 years ago so I got into it more, and it is a good/interesting sport. I don’t really follow any team but do support Montoya and Ambrose (ex-F1 driver and an aussie).
NASCAR are experts at gimmicks that attract ratings. They not only have ‘the chase’ (which co-incidentally is 12 races long, the same as the NFL season, airs on Sundays, same as NFL, and starts the same week as the NFL) but also non-championship races:
* Budweiser Shootout – first race of the season that is invitation only. Held at Daytona. To qualify you have to be a previous winner, a previous champ or part of the last seasons ‘chase’. Winner gets money: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budweiser_Shootout
* Gatorade Duel – Similar to the shootout, also at Daytona, but drivers race in teams – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatorade_Duels
* Sprint All-Star Race (are you catching on with the naming convention yet?) – $1M prize for a structured invitation-only race held in Charlotte (a short-track oval). The race is broken down into segments, with full-course yellows between each segment. 50 laps, then 20, then 20 then 10 full green laps. Winner of each segment gets part of the prize and the overall winner takes home $1M. There are mandatory stops at each segment. Invitation rules I am not sure about but it is similar to the Budwesier Shootout. A lot of NASCAR innovations are introduced at this race and then adopted for the main season, such as double-file restarts – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASCAR_Sprint_All-Star_Race
I think F1 should introduce similar (albeit gimmicky) sprint or challenge races. I watched the All-Star Race this year and it was a blast, a great intro to NASCAR for first-time viewers as well.
Television rights in NASCAR are spread out over 6 different networks – and they are constantly competing with each other to bring the best coverage of the event. They throw a lot of resources at the coverage – from pit reporters, technical reporters, going through team radio, keeping a watch on every team and driver in the field with news updates, technical reports using a NASCAR in the studio to show you what is going on etc. It makes the BBC coverage look plain in comparison. It makes the FOM directing look like child’s play – as NASCAR often has side-by-side coverage showing different parts of the field, and constantly updating delta times between drivers which mean that they can switch over as soon as they see a driver closing on another.