Tuesday
Feb222011

CBA Agreement Or Not, Nascar, NBA Jump To Avoid Crush Of NFL Steamroller

February 22, 2011: The NFL is still deciding whether of not to expand to an 18-game season. But Nascar and the NBA already have flinched.

Beginning in 2012, the Daytona 500 will take place one week later than traditionally run on President's Day weekend, moving annually to the final Sunday in February, according to Nascar.

The date for the Daytona 500 is Feb. 26, 2012. To maintain the end of season schedule, the Sprint Cup off-weekend typically scheduled in March will now be eliminated.

The NBA has already decided to move its All-Star Game back a week beginning in 2012. Orlando will host the 2012 event with the festivities scheduled to begin on Friday, Feb. 24, and the game itself to be held at Amway Center on Sunday, Feb 26.

The NFL has not yet decided whether to eliminate two preseason games and expand from a 16- to an 18-game schedule. That decision is a major part of the new CBA now being negotiated between the league and the NFL Players Assn.

If it does make the move, a switch in Super Bowl dates from the first to the third Sunday in February likely would kick in with Super Bowl XLVII, to be played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans in 2013. Super Bowl XLVII is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, contingent on whether or not the NFL does play in 2011. The date of that game would not be changed given the near-impossible logistics of having less than a year to switch league, national marketing, local activation and other key plans already underway.

Never the less, according to Steve O'Donnell, Nascar's svp-racing operations, the move was made partly in advance of a potentially expanded NFL schedule.

"We're not going to deny the fact that part of this also is in dealing with the NFL. Who knows where they'll go with an 18-game schedule. But we want to get ahead of that. Either way, we think it's the right thing to do for our season," O'Donnell said in a statement. "The Super Bowl is certainly a big event, but so is the Daytona 500, and to give fans an opportunity to go to both of those is certainly the right move."

The NHL has not yet scheduled its 2012 outdoor Heritage Classic in Canada, but with NBC getting Super Bowl XLVI and "Hockey Day in America," look for that to move, as well. "Hockey Day in America" and the Heritage Classic this year were both on Feb. 20, the same day as the NBA All-Star Game and the Daytona 500.

Nascar said the decision to begin the racing season one week later was made in "close partnership with the sanctioning body, its broadcast partners including Fox, community partners and others within the industry."

According to Nascar, there are three key benefits to the move: It shortens the racing season by one week; it maintains momentum in the early part of racing season regarding TV viewership, media coverage, fan interest and other factors; and it's a "better opportunity for fans as it moves the race further away from the 'Daytona 500' of football held in early February.

Ratings were up for both the 2011 NBA All-Star Game and the Daytona 500, so there is no reason to believe viewers would not watch during any given Sunday.

"The Super Bowl is certainly a big event, but so is the Daytona 500, and to give fans an opportunity to go to both of those is certainly the right move."

Nascar said that other schedule announcements for Daytona International Speedway and other race facilities would be determined and announced at a later date.

"When we look at the schedule in general, we've historically had an off week in that fourth week, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that hurts our momentum throughout the season," said O'Donnell. "By being able to move the date back a week, we close up that off week [and Nascar is] able to keep the momentum throughout the season, which is great."

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