Hoping scheduling continuity will equate to ratings gains, NASCAR and its TV partners will drop the flag on race starts at uniform times, beginning with the 2010 NASCAR Spring Cup Series races.
The stock car circuit, working in conjunction with its TV carriers Fox, Turner Sports, and ESPN/ABC, will begin their telecasts of Sprint Cup races at 1 p.m. (ET), when the events are held in the eastern and central time zones, while west coast telecasts are slated to start at 3 p.m. (ET). Night races will be scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (ET), save for Coca Cola 600, the sport's longest contest, which will begin again at 5:45 p.m. (ET).
Following the invocation and national anthem, the green flag will drop at approximately 15 - 20 minutes past the hour after each stated race event start time, according to NASCAR.
"NASCAR fans have been asking for earlier and more consistent start times, and we are making this change for our fans, beginning with the Daytona 500 next February," said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France in a statement. "We are revisiting our sport's tradition of earlier green flags, and the added consistency will make it easier for fans to know exactly when the races are being televised. Additionally, the new start times will help track operators get fans in and out of the track earlier in the evening. Many fans heading home from the race earlier will be able to eliminate the costs of an extra travel day."
The more consistent starting times may serve as a means to halt a ratings decline for the sport in 2009.