NASCAR compelling because of “wonderful stories,” says NBC Sports’ chairman

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Mentioning the sport’s historic rivalries, the different generations that have raced in it, and how every track is unique, NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus feels that NASCAR – which he considers a “tent pole property” for both NBC and the NBC Sports Network – will be a great fit with his company’s signature style of sports coverage.

“The mantra that we live by is two things: One, we want to tell great stories, and NASCAR, what makes it so compelling is there are wonderful stories,” Lazarus said in a conference call with reporters following today’s announcement of NASCAR’s return to NBC.

“…We believe that we take the time to develop those stories, develop the personality, make sure fans know the rivalries and why they should care about them, and that’s what we spend our time doing in all sports, and we think that NASCAR suits that production value very well.”

Lazarus indicated that NBC will use many avenues of content and promotion in order to expose NASCAR to a bigger audience. For a sport that, while still relatively popular, has also cooled off noticeably since its explosive run into the mainstream a decade ago, that has to be good to hear.

“What we have found and what we have learned and what I think we’ve demonstrated over the past several years is that when we’re able to have a property…And we’re able to bring an audience and surround it with content, both on broadcast, on cable, in digital by promoting and marketing using our [regional sports networks], that we’re able to bring a level of awareness to a sport, to a property that is equal to or unparalleled in the industry, and that’s what we intend to do with NASCAR.

“By having this mix, what we always do is make big events bigger, and that’s what we’ll do each Saturday and Sunday from July on, starting in 2015.”

For the full transcript from today’s conference call, you can click here or visit the NBC Sports Group Pressbox website.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.