ABC gives NASCAR a "Heidi Game" moment and a dose of reality
It has always been NASCAR's dream to be as big as the NFL, but when ABC cut away from Sunday's telecast with 34 laps to go at Phoenix so it could show
Sure, ABC warned viewers beforehand that it ws switching the telecast over to ESPN2, and the move only affected viewers in the Eastern and Central Time Zones, but in these tough economic times, it can't be assumed that everyone has ESPN2. Moreover, what does the switch really say about how NASCAR's own television partner views The Chase?
Apparently, not much.
The switch was made to align ABC's Sunday night television lineup, which includes the highly-rated
Winning team owner
"It doesn't say very much," Hendrick said. "I didn't know that. That's where my mother is [North Carolina]. I'm glad my phone went dead at the end of the race."
For those who don't remember, the "Heidi Game" involved an NBC telecast of a game between the New York Jets at the Oakland Raiders, when both teams were playing in the American Football League on Nov. 17, 1968.
NBC officials decided to end the telecast with 65 seconds left to broadcast an airing of
The angry reaction to the Heidi Game resulted in the AFL and NFL, and most other sports leagues, demanding that networks televise all games to their conclusion. NFL contracts with the networks now require games to be shown in a team's market area to the conclusion, regardless of the score.
Apparently, that's not the case in NASCAR, which is supposed to be one of the "big sports."
Unlike the Heidi Game,
Kenseth and Allmendinger would settle the score after the checkered flag dropped when Kenseth turned into Allmendinger's Dodge to cause another crash after the race was over.
NASCAR's TV partner slapped the organization with a dose of reality; that in the big picture the sport doesn't compare to
The Chase was designed to be NASCAR's version of a playoff. but ABC relegated it to nothing more than an exhibition. So instead of seeing Johnson win the race and virtually assure himself of an historic "Three-peat" with a third championship in a row, ABC viewers saw home videos of someone getting a shot to the groin.
After all, nothing says comedy more than a grown man writhing in pain after a youngster smacks him right between the legs. That was a similar pain that many in NASCAR felt after the plug was pulled and the telecast was moved to ESPN2.
"Yeah, I knew about it," said driver
"It seems a little odd to me, as big as NASCAR is and as many people as watch the sport," McMurray said. "I can't imagine being a race fan and being on the East Coast and trying to watch this and then going to that [
In Johnson's mind, all was not lost, as it was for viewers in half the country during the 1968 "Heidi Game" but it didn't put NASCAR in high regard.
"I thought it went dark and nobody could watch it," Johnson said. "So the fact that it was on another television channel was better. It's still somewhat on a prime channel, of course, on ABC, but to go to
For NASCAR fans, there was nothing funny about it.