Genre Auto racing
Created by Neal Pilson
Directed by Bob Fishman
Larry Cavolina
Presented by CBS Sports
Starring See commentators section below
Theme music composer Mark Wood[1]
Country of origin  United States
Language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Neal Pilson
Rich Gentile
Terry Ewert[3]
Producer(s) Bob Stenner[2]
Eric Mann
Lance Barrow
Editor(s) Charlie Liotta
Ed Givnish
Running time 4 hours (including commercials)
Original channel CBS
Picture format Color
Audio format Stereo
Original airing February 12, 1960-July 1, 2000
Related shows The CBS Sports Spectacular
External links

NASCAR on CBS was a series of NASCAR races airing on CBS Sports[4] from 1960-2000.


Races covered by CBS

Gatorade 125s

CBS began covering the race by the early 1980s, airing them tape-delayed and edited the day before the Daytona 500.

History of coverage


The very first NASCAR races to ever be shown on television were broadcasted by CBS. In February 1960, CBS sent a "skeleton" production crew to Daytona Beach, Florida and the Daytona International Speedway to cover the Daytona 500's Twin 100 (now the Gatorade Duel) qualifying races on February 12, 1960[11]. The production crew also stayed to broadcast portions of the Daytona 500 itself, two days later. The event was hosted by John S. Palmer. CBS would continue to broadcast portions of races for the next 18 years, along with ABC and NBC[12].

1979 Daytona 500: The breakthrough

CBS Sports[13] President Neal Pilson and motorsports editor Ken Squier believed that America would watch an entire stock car race live on television. Before 1979, television coverage of the Daytona 500 either began when the race was halfway over, or as an edited highlight packaged that aired a week later on ABC's Wide World of Sports. On February 18, 1979, CBS presented the first flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500[14] (and 500-mile race to be broadcast live on national television in general). The Indianapolis 500 was only broadcast on tape delay that evening in this era; most races were broadcast only through the final quarter to half of the race, as was the procedure for ABC's Championship Auto Racing broadcasts; with the new CBS contract, the network and NASCAR agreed to a full live broadcast. That telecast introduced in-car and low-level track-side cameras, which has now become standard in all sorts of automotive racing broadcasts. The race drew incredible ratings[15], in part due to the compelling action both on and off the track, and in part because a major snowstorm on the East Coast kept millions of viewers indoors.


1980 World 600

On Memorial Day 1980, CBS paid a fee of roughly $50,000 or $100,000 to Charlotte Motor Speedway to broadcast the World 600 NASCAR stock-car race. Benny Parsons edged out Darrell Waltrip to win a grand prize of $44,850 in a race that was watched by perhaps 3.7 million viewers at home.[16]

1983 Daytona 500

During their coverage of the 1983 Daytona 500, CBS introduced an innovation which director Bob Fishman helped develop - a miniature, remote-controlled in-car camera called RaceCam[17][18]. Bob Fishman[19][20] directed every Daytona 500 telecast on CBS, with the exeception of 1992, 1994 and 1998 because Fishman was away directing CBS' figure-skating coverage for the Winter Olympics.


1990 Daytona 500

After years of trying to win it, Dale Earnhardt appeared headed for certain victory in the 1990 Daytona 500 until a series of events in the closing laps. On lap 193, Geoff Bodine spun in the first turn, causing the third and final caution of the race. Everyone pitted except Derrike Cope, who stayed out. On the lap 195 restart, Earnhardt retook and held the lead, only to puncture a tire when he drove over a piece of metal bell housing from the failed engine of Rick Wilson's car on Lap 199. As Earnhardt's damaged car slowed, Cope drove past and earned his first Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) victory. It was the first of two victories for the relatively unknown Cope in the 1990 season.[21] In an ironic twist, the local CBS affiliate of Cope, who at the time was a resident of the Seattle suburb of Spanaway, opted to pre-empt the race to telecast a Seattle SuperSonics basketball game, and the race was delayed until 3 p.m. U.S. PST because of the pre-emption.

1992 Busch Clash and Daytona 500

For one year, Daytona 500 pole qualifying and the Busch Clash swapped days. The Busch Clash was held Saturday, and qualifying was held Sunday. This move was made at the request of CBS, who wanted the additional time on Sunday for their coverage of the 1992 Winter Olympics.

CBS had aired the Busch Clash (now the Budweiser Shootout) since it began in 1979. The race debuted on a Sunday, broadcasting live on CBS. Pole position qualifying for the Daytona 500 would start Sunday at 10 a.m., followed by the Daytona ARCA 200. The Busch Clash would be held after the ARCA race at 3 p.m.

1996 DieHard 500

Dale Earnhardt took a horrifying tumble down the front straightaway in "The Big One", after Ernie Irvan got into the side of Sterling Marlin which caused him to hit Earnhardt. After he hit the wall hard, he was hit by multiple cars upside down and on the car's side. He ended up breaking his collarbone, and this helped begin a winless streak that spanned the rest of the 1996 season and all of the 1997 season. The race was cut short due to the wreck, and a rainstorm earlier in the race added the factor of darkness, with Jeff Gordon winning. These events helped push the DieHard 500 from the heat, humidity, and almost commonly occurring afternoon thunderstorms of late July to a much cooler, and in the case of the weather, more stable early October date. This was the last Cup race to not be televised live because of the rain delay; the broadcast of the race aired one week later, as an abridged broadcast on CBS.

1998 Craftsman Truck Series

In 1998, a CBS-televised race in Fountain, Colorado scheduled for 186 laps ran 198 laps (12 extra laps) because of multiple attempts at a successful Green-White-Checkered Finish.

1999 Daytona 500

20 years after their first Daytona 500 broadcast, CBS used at least 200 people and more than 80 cameras for their coverage[22]:

  • 33 in-car cameras - three cameras in 11 different cars.
  • 10 “pole” cameras above the pits.
  • 35 cameras around the track.
  • A camera in a blimp.
  • A camera with each of the three pit reporters.
  • A camera in the booth.

CBS also planned to use more computerized graphics and a super slow-motion camera with a long lens.

Affiliation with The Nashville Network (TNN)

TNN[23][24] had two self-operating and self-promoting sub-divisions, TNN Outdoors and TNN Motor Sports. TNN Outdoors was responsible for the programming of hunting and fishing shows. TNN Motor Sports was responsible for production of all the network's racing coverage, including NASCAR Winston Cup, Indy Racing League and smaller outfits such as USAC, NHRA, and ARCA. Motorcycle and speedboat racing was also broadcast. TNN Outdoors and TNN Motor Sports also marketed themselves, selling a variety of merchandise and branding themselves onto video games.

In 1995, the motorsports operations were moved to Concord, North Carolina into the industrial park located at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where TNN had purchased controlling interest in World Sports Enterprises, a motorsports production company. Among TNN personalities from the motorsports operation were Mike Joy, Eli Gold, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Randy Pemberton, Ralph Sheheen, Dick Berggren, and Rick Benjamin.

Westinghouse Electric Corporation, who at the time owned the CBS networks and had an existing relationship with TNN through its Group W division, purchased TNN and its sister network CMT outright in 1995 to form CBS Cable (along with a short-lived startup network entitled "Eye On People").

Most of the original entertainment-oriented programming ceased production, and the network began to rely more on TNN Outdoors and TNN Motor Sports for programming. The network's ties to CBS allowed it to pick up country-themed CBS dramas from the 1980s such as The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas, neither of which had been seen on television since their original runs ended, and also allowed it to carry CBS Sports run over, which happened during a NASCAR Busch Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1999 and also a PGA Tour event at Firestone Country Club.

The end of NASCAR on CBS

NASCAR wanted to capitalize on its increased popularity even more, so they decided that future deals would be centralized; that is, the networks would negotiate directly with NASCAR for a regular schedule of telecasts. That deal was struck on December 15, 1999[25]. Fox Sports, FX, NBC and TBS (later moved to TNT) agreed to pay $2.4 billion for a new six-year package[26], covering the Winston (now Sprint) Cup Series and Busch (now Nationwide) Series schedules.

  • Fox and FX would televise race 1 through 16 of the 2001, 2003, and 2005 seasons and race 2 through 17 of the 2002, 2004, and 2006 seasons. Fox would air the Daytona 500 in the odd-numbered years. All Busch Series races during that part of the season would also be on Fox/FX.
  • NBC and TNT would televise the final 17 races of the even-numbered years as well as the Daytona 500 and the last 18 races of the odd-numbered years, as well as all Busch Series races held in that time of the year.

With the end of the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series, came the end of the relationship between NASCAR and its oldest television partner.


The television ratings[27] for the Daytona 500[28] have surpassed those of the Indianapolis 500 since 1995, even though the 1995 race was available in fewer homes than in the past. CBS had lost affiliates in major markets as a result of realignment in the wake of Fox landing the NFL[29], and was actually not available in a NASCAR Busch Series market, Milwaukee; their new CBS affiliate, WDJT, was not available to some cable subscribers.


See also


  1. ^ CBS Sports - Daytona 500
  2. ^ CBS Sports Nascar Closing Music From the Early 1980s on YouTube
  3. ^ NASCAR on CBS Theme (Extended Version) on YouTube
  4. ^ Google Search - NASCAR on CBS
  5. ^ The race was broadcast live on CBS, a precursor to the 500 one week later -- and most NASCAR fans remember how that one turned out.
  6. ^ Ralph Sheheen joined CBS Sports in 1995 as a reporter for the CBS Television Network's coverage of the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) Grand National Invitational and also contributed to CBS' coverage of the 1996 Jiffy Lube Miami 300.
  7. ^ Berggren joined the CBS Sports racing announce team for the Michigan 400 at Michigan Speedway in 1994.
  8. ^ CBS will return in July for the nighttime running of the Pepsi 400, the last of its four Winston Cup races this year in all.
  9. ^ April 2 - Texas - CBS; 6.0 rating; 6,053,000 viewers; 3rd highest rated sports show on the broadcast networks
  10. ^ Bill Stephens joined CBS Sports in 1996 as a reporter for the CBS Television Network's coverage of the Watkins Glen 200.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ In May 1978, CBS Television signed on to broadcast the biggest race of NASCAR's Winston Cup Grand National series live from start to finish.
  14. ^ Squier and Ned Jarrett called the 1979 race and served as a pit reporter, respectively, when Richard Petty won a wild last-lap shootout which was followed by Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison and Bobby Allison fighting in the infield. Before then, the Daytona 500 and any other NASCAR event had been televised in an edited version, usually six days later on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
  15. ^ The 1979 race still holds the highest rating (10.5) and share (29) of any Daytona 500, although Jeff Gordon's victory last year set a record for the most viewers during the four-hour telecast with an estimated 29.5 million.
  16. ^ TV Racing's Mantra: 'Show Me the Money!'
  17. ^ As pivotal as that first 500 for CBS was, Squier considered Yarborough's win in 1983 to be just as important in furthering the sport's popularity. An innovation which director Bob Fishman helped develop - a miniature, remote-controlled in-car camera called RaceCam - was mounted inside Yarborough's car. The pictures gave the viewing audience a better portrayal of the drivers as what Squier called "real people taking real risks" instead of the perception of a bunch of good ol' boys simply making one left-hand turn after another. "You got a sense of the control it took and the judgment those people had to have to survive," he said. "And it changed the American perspective."
  18. ^ "Then in 1983, we introduced the in-car camera. We put the average race fan in the driver's seat. They got a sense for speed, a sense of how close the traffic was. Until 1983, cars didn't look that fast on a 19-inch television screen. All of a sudden you're behind the wheel and you learned these cars drive like a sailboat going 200 mph. You got a sense of what it's like to be a driver. It was reality and fantasy television all in one."
  19. ^ Fishman has directed every 500 telecast except for the three years (1992, 1994 and 1998) when he was at the Winter Olympics directing CBS' figure-skating coverage. Fishman and producer Bob Stenner were almost inseparable at the Speedway until Stenner left for Fox in 1994 after Pat Summerall and John Madden insisted that he continue being part of the NFL games which they called.
  20. ^ Bob Fishman plans to give viewers a few laps of pure, roaring speed. “We have some great low-angle shots,” Fishman said. “It brings those cars right in your face. You see the cars roaring by. I plan to show some laps with nothing but speed shots.”
  21. ^ - The 1990 Daytona 500 - July 28, 2003
  22. ^ CBS to let wheels do the talking
  23. ^ - TNN
  24. ^ Pocono Qualifying on TV - But Not Live
  25. ^ In 2000, the last year of the old TV contracts, the total annual TV revenue for Winston Cup races is $100 million. One example of the money under the old system is Las Vegas, where the track had a 5-year deal with ABC for $7 million a year.
  26. ^ While many fans were upset that ESPN and CBS lost the rights, insiders say that their bids were close to $100 million annually under the winning bids from Fox and NBC.
  27. ^ TV Ratings - 2000 Season
  28. ^ TrackCast Rating
  29. ^ Accounting profit on NASCAR only tells part of the story. Demographics and network prestige are just as important. Remember what happened to CBS after they lost the NFL and look at the positive that has happened there since they regained the NFL. The Olympics don't make money for the networks directly either. But they're still worth the big bucks for other reasons.
  30. ^ BUDDY BAKER (CBS Sports Analyst)
  31. ^ DICK BERGGREN (CBS Sports Reporter)
  32. ^ Eli Gold has also worked in a play-by-play role with both CBS Sports and NBC Sports in their coverage of NASCAR racing.
  33. ^ CBS has added its biggest sports name, Greg Gumbel, as co-host with Ken Squire. Gumbel is a mainstream name, who could help bring some non-racing fans to the broadcast. What he doesn't bring is any racing expertise. “I don't know a fender from a spoiler,” he said. That's an exaggeration. Gumbel did local sports for 71/2 years and SportsCenter on ESPN for 51/2 years, so he's familiar with racing. He won't try to fool NASCAR fans. “I am not an expert,” he said. “But I'm working with a bunch of them.”
  34. ^ NED JARRETT (CBS Sports Analyst)
  35. ^ MIKE JOY (CBS Sports Play-by-Play)
  36. ^ During the 1984 Daytona 500, Mike began working as a pit reporter for CBS. Since CBS only broadcast a few races, he was able to continue working the MRN broadcasts through 1985. During this time, he also continued do public address work at Stafford and actually worked as the promoter at Lime Rock Park, also in Connecticut. Unfortunately, as Mike was really getting into that job and making big plans for the next season, CBS greatly increased his network workload, so he reluctantly had to give up the Lime Rock job. Mike worked for TNN from 1991 to 1995. After that he became primary anchor in the CBS booth for Daytona 500 coverage beginning in 1998 and through 2000, the last year on their NASCAR contract.
  37. ^ RALPH SHEHEEN (CBS Sports Reporter)
  38. ^ BILL STEPHENS (CBS Sports Reporter)
  39. ^ KEN SQUIER (CBS Host)

External links

Preceded by
Daytona 500 television broadcaster
1979 - 2000
Succeeded by
Fox (odd numbered years) and NBC (even numbered years)

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