I know that we've been talking about this a lot lately at Yahoo! Sports, but NASCAR and Chicagoland Speedway's announcement Monday morning brought the NASCAR vs. NFL issue to the forefront once again.
After hosting a night race in July for the past three seasons, Chicagoland Speedway will now be the first race of the Chase beginning in 2011. But instead of being on a Saturday night, the race will be on Sunday, Sept. 18.
With standard start times, that means the race will start just after 12 p.m. CT, or in NFL terms, right about the time the Chicago Bears will be kicking off. (The 2011 NFL schedule hasn't been released, obviously, so it's not a foregone conclusion that the Bears will be at noon. However, 12 of the Bears' 16 games this season start at that time.)
I think we know who's going to dominate the local media coverage that day.
Plus, it's not totally out of the realm of possibility that the White Sox or Cubs could be in a battle for a division title or wild-card berth. Those coupled or tripled with the Bears' second game of the season would make the NASCAR race dang near irrelevant locally.
Officials were bragging about how Chicago is now the Chase's largest media market. That's a fine point to push, but the competition is fierce. Yes, attendance stunk in Fontana, Calif., but there was no pro football team to compete with. Chicagoland president Craig Rust did acknowledge the local competition for eyeballs, but said that the television window on Sunday was more attractive. That, too, seems like a stretch.
Chicago is not a college sports town, and a Saturday night race would undoubtedly attract more local eyeballs and probably more national ones as well. With a spot (presumably) on ABC, a Saturday night race would prevent a marquee college football game from being shown to the country, limiting sports fans' options. Sure, there would be a game on ESPN and ESPN2, but as we all know, the NFL is king.
When your ratings and attendance are declining, you don't go after the king. Unless you want to keep falling.