Scott Dixon dominates the 2020 GMR Rand Prix.
On a typical Memorial Day weekend Sunday, IndyCar and NASCAR work together to create a day-long feast for racing fans — one that traditionally begins with Formula 1 at Monaco in the morning, followed by an early-afternoon Indy 500 and late-day Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But with the American series’ schedules jumbled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and NBC trying to balance a massive sports calendar in late-summer and early-fall, IndyCar and NASCAR will run head-to-head Aug. 23 with both races shown on NBC networks.
Wednesday, NASCAR released its latest schedule update for the Cup, Xfinity and Trucks series. Included is an Aug. 23 Cup race at Dover, broadcast on NBCSN set to start at 4 p.m. Last week, IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske told IndyStar this year’s Indy 500 will start at 2:30 p.m. — nearly two hours later than traditionally scheduled.
Penske said the delayed start was due simply to the hoops IndyCar and NBC executives had to jump through in order to find the best rescheduled option for this year’s 500 after it was postponed in late March. A later start — even when taking into account the additional heat spectators, drivers and team personnel will likely deal with — was the best available option with what the schedule looked like back in late March.
With a race day broadcast on NBC set to begin at 1 p.m., according to NBC’s website, the Indy 500 lead-in, along with the start of the race, will run head-to-head with the Xfinity series race at Dover that day, set to start at 1 p.m. and broadcast on NBCSN. In years past, that 200-mile race has typically lasted just under two hours with a finish this year right around 3 p.m.
The NASCAR Cup series race on the same track will follow roughly an hour later, also on NBCSN. Traditionally, a 400-mile Cup series race run at Dover has typically lasted just over three hours, and with a 4 p.m. start, this year’s race should end around 7 p.m. In recent years, when compared to other race broadcasts not shown on network TV, the regular season Cup series race at Dover is typically one of NASCAR’s most-watched events.
But this year, fans of both series will have to choose one to watch live, or switch back-and-forth at the risk of missing a race-changing moment.
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Last year’s Indy 500, the first broadcast on NBC in the network’s new exclusive TV rights deal with the series, marked for the first time in four years where the ratings increased, year-over-year.
Without any major delays, this year’s Indy 500 would stand to end around 5:30 p.m., with a re-run broadcast likely set for around 7 p.m. in the Indianapolis area.
Because of that late start, Penske said he’ll continue referring to the blocking local fans watching the race live on TV as a “delay” rather than a “blackout,” though he wouldn’t commit to a locked-in decision yet. Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles told IndyStar last month fans shouldn’t expect the blackout to be lifted, despite restricting a maximum attendance to 50% of IMS’ capacity, or roughly 175,000 fans.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to come for any reason can get a credit for next year,” Penske told IndyStar. “People here, they want to be here and have a race.
“And none of this is to line our pockets with gold. I wanna be sure we’re not selfish, that we’re guided to do the right thing and that we have outside support. It’s not all inside. We have the right people — some city, some state — supporting our decisions. We’ve not doing it by ourselves.”
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Email IndyStar motor sports reporter Nathan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.