NASCAR on TNN
TNN had a self-operating and self-promoting sub-division called TNN Motor Sports, and aired races produced by that division from 1991 to 2000. Under the TNN Motor Sports umbrella, NASCAR series races (including those of the then-Winston Cup Series and Busch Grand National Series, as well as the Craftsman Truck Series) were the most prominently featured, but races of smaller circuits such as the International Motor Sports Association IMSA Sports Car Series, ASA, USAC, the NHRA, and ARCA were also showcased, as was motorcycle and speedboat racing.
In 1995, the motorsports operations were moved into the industrial park located at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, where TNN had purchased controlling interest in World Sports Enterprises, a motorsports production company.
Also by 1995, 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 to form CBS Cable, along with a short-lived startup network entitled Eye On People (now Investigation Discovery). TNN's ties to CBS allowed it to carry CBS Sports' run overs, which happened during a NASCAR Busch Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1999.
TNN picked up several of the "second tier" Winston Cup races of the time, whose rights packages were allowed to expire by ESPN. Races at tracks such as Rockingham, Dover, Pocono, Loudon, and Phoenix, were among the events signed. In general, ESPN abandoned slower, longer, races which used large broadcast windows. 500-mile races at Rockingham, Dover and Pocono were known to last upwards of five hours, requiring a broadcast window as long as six hours (to include pre-race and post-race coverage). The races at Rockingham and Dover were shortened to 400 miles in 1995 and 1997, respectively, but remained part of the TNN lineup. TNN's relatively open schedule for Sunday afternoons allowed large NASCAR broadcast windows.
TNN also picked up rights to The Winston when it was moved to prime time.
In 1998, TNN acquired the one-time rights (from CBS) of the Pepsi 400. Due to wildfires, the race was postponed from July 4 to October.
The Winter Heat Series meanwhile, aired during the winter months between November and January (during NASCAR's offseason). The program began during the 1994-1995 winter and ran through the 1998-1999 winter. The races were held at the 3/8 mile Tucson Raceway Park in Tucson, Arizona. TNN originally broadcast the races before ESPN took over. Broadcasters for TNN were Mike Joy, Buddy Baker, Glenn Jarrett and Ralph Sheheen.
For the Busch Series race at Memphis in 2001, Gold and Jarrett called the race for NBC, while Sheheen did the pit work because the regular broadcast team of Allen Bestwick, Wally Dallenbach, and Benny Parsons were in Martinsville, waiting out a rain delay that ended up delaying the race until the next day, making them unavailable to call the race.
TNN loses NASCAR
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. Fox Sports, FX, NBC and TBS (later moved to TNT) agreed to pay $2.4 billion for a new six-year package, covering the Winston (now Sprint) Cup Series and Busch (now Xfinity) 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.
After nearly 10 years of live coverage, TNN's partnership with NASCAR came to a close at the conclusion of the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.
Notable TNN racing personalities included Ken Squier, Mike Joy, Steve Evans, Eli Gold, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Randy Pemberton, Brock Yates, Glenn Jarrett, Mike Hogewood, Steve Byrnes, Ralph Sheheen, Dick Berggren, Larry McReynolds, Darrell Waltrip, Chad Little, and Rick Benjamin.
- TNN decided to get into the game in 1991 and that pretty much guaranteed that each weekend's NASCAR race would be shown somewhere on television, whether it was CBS, ABC, WTBS, ESPN or TNN.
- TNN Tribute
- 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. at the Wayback Machine (archived September 18, 2000)
- 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. at the Wayback Machine (archived September 18, 2000)