Report: NHRA to end ESPN TV deal, move to Fox Sports 1 in 2016

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The National Hot Rod Association will end its 14-year relationship with ESPN to televise national event races at the end of this season and move broadcasts to Fox Sports 1 in 2016, according to a report Monday by Sports Business Daily.

NBCSports.com asked NHRA officials Sunday during the final day of the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Il., about rumors of a possible deal with FS1, but NHRA officials claimed they had no knowledge of such a deal.

NHRA will buy itself out of the final year of its existing five-year contract with ESPN that was due to end after the 2016 season, according to the Sports Business Daily report.

SBD also reported that while both sides have agreed upon terms, a formal contract still has yet to be signed.

An announcement from both sides about the new relationship, potentially including the length of the new deal, is expected later this week.

This is the second big news story to come from NHRA in less than two weeks. Tom Compton announced his retirement on July 1, and has been replaced by Peter Clifford.

MORE: NHRA shakeup: Tom Compton retires as president, Peter Clifford named successor

MORE: NHRA: New president Peter Clifford full of ideas to get drag racing back on-track

ESPN has televised all professional class races of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, but has drawn ire from fans and media for tape delay telecasts of several events, shifting telecasts between different networks under its umbrella, as well as not sticking to scheduled air times.

NHRA has already announced that it will bring production of its TV broadcasts in 2016 in-house, much like it did in the 1980s and into the 1990s with its affiliation with the now-defunct Diamond P production company.

NBCSports.com reached out to NHRA, Fox and ESPN officials for comment on the SBD report.

NHRA and ESPN have not responded, but a FOX official said “the network is not ready to comment on the report as yet.”

While Fox Sports 1 carries significant NASCAR programming, including televising the first 16 Sprint Cup races each season, it seemingly could easily fit NHRA coverage under its umbrella.

And if needed, particularly with a direct conflict with NASCAR, FS1 could potentially shift some NHRA coverage to Fox Sports 2, but the SBD report did not address that.

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