Yes, that really was a split-screen ad/race you saw Sunday afternoon

Jay Busbee

The best gifts are the ones you don't expect. You know when Christmas and your birthday are coming, so those are inevitably letdowns. But when a gift comes at you out of the blue, thumping you on the head like it fell off a passing truck, well, it's that much more special.

With about 20 laps remaining in the otherwise-unspectacular Dover race, Fox cut to commercial. Now, normally this is a cue for the entire field to pit or run straight into one another; the odds of a caution hitting during a commercial are pretty much 1:1. This time, though, as Fox proceeded through ads for Sprint, FedEx and Pizza Hut, viewers noticed something unusual: there was still video of cars going around the track!

Surely this was a trick. Surely this was a Transformers 3 ad, or some goofy viral marketing campaign. Surely Fox Sports, which has all the promotional subtlety of a megaphone bellowing three inches from your ear, wouldn't roll out split-screen in-race ads without a whole barrage of self-congratulatory hallelujahs.

It wasn't, it wasn't, and they did. With no fanfare whatsoever, the split-screen showed up, and the rolling disbelief was evident on both Twitter and our live chat. And the reaction? Thumbs up, across the board. Finally, NASCAR found a way to get us to cheer a ridearound!

It seems easy enough to do, but split-screens require advertisers to buy in to losing a chunk of their screen real estate. But all three sponsors named above have a long history with NASCAR, so all three agreed it was a good idea, at least for a one-off, and the resultant publicity may mean that we'll see it again.

"At this point, the fan feedback we've seen via social media has been very positive," a Fox Sports spokesman told Landmark Newspapers' Dustin Long. "The plan now is to evaluate the execution with the advertisers before we decide whether to try it again this season."

Look, NASCAR is nowhere near perfect, and nor are its broadcasters. But in this case, they listened to the fans and delivered something that everyone's been wanting for years. Go ask your friends who are diehard NFL fans how well things are working out for them these days on that front.

[Screencap via The Daly Planet]