NASCAR’s television contract runs through 2014, but Fox Sports Chairman David Hill said the network will begin its negotiations on an extension this season.
“You never stop negotiating,” Hill said. “But it will start to get hot in the next three or four months.”
Fox shares the Sprint Cup Series schedule with TNT and ESPN. The network joined with NASCAR in 2001 on a six-year deal, and extended once, by eight years, through 2014.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France said last month the series is happy with its television partners.
“My expectation is they want to renew their involvement with NASCAR, and my hope is at the right time we’ll figure that out together,” France said.
“The sports landscape in general, as you know, has heated up quite a bit, so we will be in a good position at the right time. We’re having conversations.”
Fox broadcasts 13 points races on NASCAR’s 36-race schedule.
Hill said he’ll never publicly discuss negotiations but insisted his passion for NASCAR — and auto racing in general — has not waned and the sport is a good product for the network. He also pointed to last year’s improved ratings as proof that Fox and NASCAR are a good fit.
“I think the whole season last year was a huge change in two things, and the most important was the young male demographic started to come back,” Hill said.
“I think last year was a hugely important year for all of NASCAR, because I think we finally got over the debacle of the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow. The Car of Tomorrow was probably one of the greatest marketing mishandlings since they brought out new Coke.”
The 2011 NASCAR season on Fox averaged a three-year high of 8.6 million viewers, up 9 percent. It was the largest one-year audience increase in the 11-year history of NASCAR on Fox.
The male 18-to-34 demographic last year was up 20 percent over 2010, from 1.5 to 1.8 in the ratings.
UPTON WATCH — Move over, Danica Patrick. There’s a new woman turning heads in the NASCAR garage.
Supermodel Kate Upton is at Daytona International Speedway, where she will serve as grand marshal for the Daytona 500 along with her Three Stooges co-star Jane Lynch.
Upton, who was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue released this month, was a big hit among drivers, crew members and race fans.
Upton and Lynch went to Daytona to help promote their upcoming movie. They play nuns in the movie, which is to be released April 13. Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso star as the Stooges and were selected to drop the green flag.
TOUGH TALK — UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones, the honorary official for the Daytona 500, didn’t hold back when asked about his upcoming fight against Rashad Evans.
When a reporter asked Jones about Evans’ calling him fake in a recent interview, Jones lashed out at his former friend and now top rival.
“Yeah, he’s been calling me that since the beginning of my career,” Jones said.
“He’s the guy who’s the fake really, you know. A lot of his actions really don’t add up to the person that he portrays. It’s interesting. It’s prefight drama, and I plan on kicking his butt. That’s my only option really.”
Jones and Evans are scheduled to fight as the main event during UFC 145 on April 21 in Atlanta.
Jones toured Daytona International Speedway, said he loves cars and was planning to pull for former Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick.
GIANT VISITORS — New York Giants defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are on hand for the Great American Race. The Super Bowl champions were introduced at the pre-race drivers’ meeting, and the most significant part of their appearance was Tuck’s left shoulder.
Tuck’s arm was in a sling, evidence of recent shoulder surgery.
Coach Tom Coughlin revealed the surgery Friday at the NFL Combine.
Tuck battled through a number of injuries during the regular season and missed four games. He was held out of a practice before New York’s NFC wild-card round game against the Atlanta Falcons because of his ailing shoulder.
WAKE-UP CALL — Lenny Kravitz wasn’t quite ready for his midday concert.
Kravitz strolled into Daytona International Speedway wearing dark shades and moving somewhat slowly.
“Once I wake up, we should be OK,” he said.
The seven-time Grammy Award winner eventually got things rolling and played some fan favorites in the rain, including American Woman and Are You Gonna Go My Way.
He was asked whether his life is much different from a NASCAR driver’s.
“You guys go fast; we play loud,” he said.