TNT, halfway through its NASCAR 2011 Sprint Cup Series coverage, has driven solid ratings gains.
Through its first three races, TNT has recorded a 3% gain to a 3.1 U.S. household rating and a 7% audience advance to just under 5.1 million watchers, according to Nielsen data. Those numbers were lifted last Sunday by its coverage of the Toyota/SaveMart 350 from Sonoma's Infineon Raceway as the telecast produced a 3.2 rating (up 17%), 3.7 million households (21%) and 5.2 million viewers (16%).
The drama network's NASCAR coverage continues in primetime on Saturday July 2 with Coke Zero 400 at Daytona powered by Coca-Cola. The race, for the fifth consecutive year, will feature TNT's Wide Open coverage, which debuted during the 2007 Daytona 400 race and has resulted in only nine missed laps of green flag racing in four years, and zero laps over the last two. The format provides continuous race coverage free of national commercial breaks and features more than 20% unobstructed race action, than that of a standard telecast, by using a letterbox widescreen format, which allows for a continuous scroll of race information. In place of the national ads, the telecast features a variety of animated sponsor messages, branded content and distinct on-screen graphic elements.
Turner Sports was the first to deploy uninterrupted NASCAR race coverage when TBS rolled out side-by-side coverage on Oct. 8, 2000 with its presentation of UAW-GM Quality 500 from Charlotte.
The six national sponsors featured in this year's innovative telecast: Coke Zero, Coors Light, Pfizer, Sprint, Toyota, Warner Brothers Films' Horrible Bosses and Crazy, Stupid, Love. According to Nielsen IAG Research, advertisements featured during the 2010 TNT NASCAR Wide Open race delivered a 68% brand recall score, a significantly higher recall percentage when compared to standard ads featured during sports and NASCAR coverage.
"We look forward to our fifth consecutive year of providing viewers with continuous green flag racing and more information on the 43 drivers in the field for the signature race of TNT's NASCAR Summer Series," said Jeff Behnke, executive producer/senior vice president of Turner Sports in a statement."Through TNT and NASCAR.com we look forward to providing race fans with an all-access pass to all the sights and sounds of our primetime race in Daytona."
The network will rev up its pre-race coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. (ET) with Countdown to Green delivered by Pizza Hut with Lindsay Czarniak serving as host and Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds as analysts. TNT's "Pride of NASCAR" series will feature a profile of the three-time National Motorsports Press Association Driver of the Year Cale Yarborough, who won the Daytona 500 four times. Joining the studio show prior to the race will be Kevin Harvick for an interview to talk about his season. Other pre-race features include McReynolds in a wind tunnel with No. 14 Tony Stewart's crew chief Darian Grubb to explain how the two-car draft works and why it's important at Daytona International Speedway.
TNT will air the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona powered by Coca-Cola beginning at 7:30 p.m. with play-by-play announcer Adam Alexander calling the race alongside analysts Petty and Wally Dallenbach in the booth. In addition, McReynolds will make frequent contributions from the infield as he breaks down crew strategy and analyzes car adjustments using the TNT Offtrack Robotic Car presented by Toyota. Pit reporters Chris Neville, Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snider and Matt Yocum will provide reports throughout the race.