Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Fox to Replace ESPN as NHRA TV Coverage Provider in 2016

Published on July 14, 2015 by   ·   18 Comments


The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and ESPN have mutually agreed to end their television coverage agreement following the 2015 season. NHRA and FOX Sports officials jointly announced that starting in 2016 the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be televised by FOX Sports 1 (FS1) with four events airing on the FOX national broadcast network during each season of the long-term agreement, providing the world’s fastest motorsport with live coverage of a majority of its events.

ESPN logo

The 2016 season was to be the final year of a five-year rights extension deal that took effect in 2012. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has aired exclusively on ESPN networks since 2001 and is currently in its 15th season on ESPN.

“We thank ESPN for its many years of service to NHRA fans,” said Peter Clifford, NHRA president. “We look forward to finishing out this exciting 2015 season with ESPN showcasing the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.”

Peter Clifford

Peter Clifford

“The NHRA is an exciting form of racing with a very loyal fanbase,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, league sports programming. “Unfortunately, we have had scheduling challenges with NHRA programming due to other commitments in the fall.

“We look forward to continuing our event coverage for the remainder of the 2015 season, and to serving fans with the stories of the NHRA on our news and information platforms for many years after that.

“We have tremendous respect for the NHRA and its history and we wish them all the best in the future.”

Eric Swaringen

ESPN’s NHRA producer Eric Swaringen (right) and director Bruce Watson (center)

FOX Sports, which is already the home to high-profile races in NASCAR, Monster Energy Supercross, the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the fully electric FIA Formula E Championship, among others, will significantly expand on its annual motorsports coverage when it adds NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series programming to the lineup next season.

Fox Sports 1 logo

The new agreement calls for FS1 to provide coverage of Friday and Saturday qualifying and Sunday eliminations for each NHRA Mello Yello Series event, with a minimum of 16 Sunday eliminations shows to be presented in a live coverage format, and the remainder shown either in weekend afternoon or primetime time slots. Four of those live elimination shows will air on the FOX national broadcast network.

“This really is a game-changer for NHRA regarding the presentation of our marquee product, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series,” said Peter Clifford, NHRA president. “FOX Sports promises to be just the right media partner we’ve been looking for to help give our professional series the stage it deserves and to provide our passionate fans the timely, quality coverage they are craving.”

The Sunday elimination shows will consistently be presented in three-hour programs and the Friday/Saturday qualifying shows will be two-hours of coverage. In addition, FS1 and FS2 will provide multiple re-airs for all of the events. FS1 also will provide coverage of select NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Sportsman Series events. In total, FOX national networks will feature more than 450 hours per year of NHRA programming.

The deal also includes NHRA racing on FOX Sports Racing in Canada and the Caribbean, as well as FOX Sports GO, the critically acclaimed app that provides live streaming video of FOX Sports content at home or on the go, and now available in 70 million households. Customers of participating video providers may access the live stream of FOX Sports’ NHRA programming through the FOX Sports GO app for iOS, Android, Fire Tablets and Fire Phones, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, select Windows devices, and on desktops through FOXSportsGO.com. Fans can download the mobile app for free from the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Windows Store.

“Committing to 16 live events, including four on the FOX broadcast network, certainly demonstrates the commitment and excitement level we have for the National Hot Rod Association,” said Jamie Horowitz, President of FOX Sports National Networks. “As home to the strongest and most diverse collection of racing properties on television, adding NHRA drag racing to the weekly lineup absolutely solidifies FOX Sports as the leader in motor sports television.”

FOX Sports has also committed to heavily promoting all NHRA Mello Yello Series shows throughout its media platforms. NHRA will sell advertising and sponsorship packages and assume responsibility for the production of the shows in concert with FOX Sports, with the creation of an in-house television production group as well as handle all international distribution for the programs.

Dave Rieff, Mike Dunn

NHRA TV announcer Dave Rieff (L) and analyst Mike Dunn

FOX Sports will join the NHRA in offering this exciting addition to the FOX Sports racing portfolio to the linear and digital marketplace.

The NHRA was represented in connection with this transaction by Desser Sports Media, Inc. (www.desser.tv).

FOX Sports is the umbrella entity representing 21st Century FOX’s wide array of multi-platform US-based sports assets. Built with brands capable of reaching more than 100 million viewers in a single weekend, FOX Sports includes ownership and interests in linear television networks, digital and mobile programming, broadband platforms, multiple web sites, joint-venture businesses and several licensing partnerships. FOX Sports includes the sports television arm of the FOX Broadcasting Company; FOX Sports 1; FOX Sports 2; Fox’s 22 regional sports networks, their affiliated regional web sites and FSN national programming; FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go; FOX Deportes and FOX College Sports. In addition, FOX Sports also encompasses FOX Sports Digital, which includes FOXSports.com, FOX Sports GO, Whatifsports.com and Yardbarker.com. Also included in the Group are FOX’s interests in joint-venture businesses Big Ten Network and BTN 2Go, as well as licensing agreements that establish the FOX Sports Radio Network.

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.




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Readers Comments (18)

  1. Dave Viola says:

    This is a big win for the fans thanks NHRA

  2. Rick Emmick says:

    It’s about time NHRA dumped ESPN. Who wants to stay up til 3am because ESPN has “more important” programming to show 1st.

    • Carlos says:

      Yes but I think live streaming on ESPN3 was Great!!

    • Carlos Suarez says:

      I agree with some things and not with others. NHRA drag racing is great. You guys are saying you are not going to watch it anymore. Why? Fox did not fire Mike, he is now president of IHRA Racing. Another drag racing league. I liked ESPN3 because they showed the race with out commercials.

  3. David says:

    Per a reply to an email I sent Mike Dunn when the FOX news was announced, Mike will NOT be part of the FOX NHRA broadcast team in 2016 …

    “Just got word on Friday that they will not be hiring me for next years broadcast. Wanted a fresh look was the excuse.
    Thanks for all your support over the years. It has been a great 14 seasons doing the broadcast.

  4. Billie Jackson says:

    Sorry to see Mike Dunn leave, he and Dave make a good pair.

    Wish Fox would change their mind and keep both.

  5. tom orsolini says:

    mike Dunn is great i thank him for all the years. lets hope tony Pedregon can do the same but time will tell now that fox is in the driver seat. i also do agree espn sucked about the priority on programming. lets hope we still get to see Mike Dunn in the world of drag racing.

  6. kirk johnson says:

    Wow, amazing that you guys think this is a good deal!!!!! Complete idiots…so you move from ESPN to Foxsports 1&2…seriously, and lose Mike Dunn, etc. Trash network and it fits in well with NHRA’s leadership team – they’ve always been years behind the times and this will hurt long term. Did any of you watch the semifinals in FC tonight when Del won the championship – the President of NHRA looks like (and acts like) a zombie. Typical NHRA. Best of luck.

  7. Kevin says:

    I have been watching NHRA Drag Racing for over 35years. But when espn took over there was always something more important to televise I always set my vcr or cable box for at lest an hour. And most of the time that wasn’t enough. Hopefully fox does a better job.

  8. C.D.@Austin Tx says:

    IMO ESPN did a great job…The Announcer team was fun and professional and made the broadcast interesting to listen to as well as watch. I’m not a hard core NHRA dude but I respect the sport and I find it fascinating to watch, like some people do with golf. I am able to stay up late so The late start did not bother me, In fact I preferred it.(I don’t like to be bothered when I’m trying to watch my racing.)
    When Fox took over the F1 coverage from SPEED I was very interested at first then after a year I realized how great we had it on Speed.( I miss the original Speed channel.) Fox offers more view times but the programing product Speed channel produced was far superior. IMO, I could be wrong, I’m sure other folks feel differently.

  9. L keester says:

    ESPN sucked but it would cost me $250 per year to upgrade directv to get fox sport 1. Plus no mke Dunn. Good by nhra.

  10. Tim says:

    New NHRA coverage is horrible, pouring driver profiles that go nowhere, talking about things that just don’t matter. I wish they would call these drag races like a horse race. I already miss my gun and it’s only two races in. Pathetic

  11. Scott says:

    The new format of coverage for these races is horrible. One of the most exhilarating things to watch were the burnouts. Fox has chosen to not even show the burnouts, fast pace the races one after another, and show the run over and over and over. It has gotten so bad that I rarely watch the races anymore. As much as I love drag racing, it has become painful to watch this horrible coverage of what ESPN had down as a good format for covering the race. Plus without Mike Dunn it’s really just gotten ridiculous with Dave Reiff’s mistakes. This week he said a car had lost its “mustard” at the end. I had to listen to it 4 times to make sure I heard it right. Plus, they don’t even show all the racers anymore. What was once an enjoyable race to watch has been ruined by Fox.

  12. Gary says:

    American greed I now have to upgrade my cable!!! On ESPN I was able to watch it at no additional cost for some of us money does not grow on trees!!! I am done with the NHRA!!!

  13. Wayne McConnell says:

    I have watched the NHRA televised events since they first started airing them. I was a drag racer myself for many years and love the sport. I wish I could do it for a living.
    I am very disappointed in the fox coverage. I always told the people I knew or met that the coverage of the NHRA on ESPN was the most exciting shows I watch verses any other coverage of sporting events including the NFL. It was fast paced yet covered all of the important facts. I guess I did not realize how fantastic ESPN’s coverage was. Fox needs to step up to the plate and at least do as fine a job as ESPN. Fox doesn’t show all of the reaction times, the run info disappears too quickly if they show it at all and they seem to be trying to cater to the novice much more than the loyal fan base. I agree that it is nice to explain the intricacies of the sport occasionally as ESPN did. I do agree that it would be an upgrade if they would actually show the event when it is scheduled instead of late or not at all. ESPN’s program scheduling did suck. Let’s hope they did not carry over the program scheduler.
    Here’s hoping Fox improves because it appears we’re stuck with them. Fox is in their infancy when it comes to drag racing event production.
    Mike Dunn was great. Tony seems nice, but it is apparent he needs much more experience in the announcer’s seat. I will have to live with it.
    For now the coverage has become somewhat boring, but hopefully it will catch up with the former network’s great work.

  14. Bob says:

    Why do you constantly call Route 66 Chicago, there are no tracks in Chicago.
    It’s in Joliet Illinois!!!!

  15. M.L. Riley says:

    Is anyone else as tired as I am of listening to Tony Pedragon expound. It has gotten so bad that I mute the sound so I don’t have to listen to him. I love drag racing, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll hang in there. I guess Mike Dunn really spoiled us with his knowledgeable and laid back style.

  16. Wayne Bailey says:

    I would love to see the coverage of some of the lesser none racers race. They spend a good hour talking about the big name racers telling us how the car works and all kinda crap between the races. They could be showing us the lesser guys race and we would be getting entertained instead of getting bored and changing channels.

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