Last week, Denny Hamlin pitched his idea to help increase NASCAR viewership during an episode of his podcast Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin, and it's been blowing up on social media ever since. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver and 23XI Racing co-owner proposed a single-elimination summer tournament in which the top 32 drivers in points would go head-to-head while competing on the track. Winners would advance until the final two face off for a grand prize of $5 million.
As Denny stated on his podcast, the tournament would bring March Madness-style excitement to the summer portion of the NASCAR schedule. Hamlin believes it would boost not only the ratings but also add some fun to bettors and fantasy players with a NASCAR bracket to fill out for fun or money.
This week, Hamlin shared some of the feedback he has been receiving from those around NASCAR.
"So last week, we came up with an idea about a summer bracket," Hamlin said. "And that kind of took off on social media — and, man, it got a lot of attention for sure."
Hamlin went on to say that one of the first texts that he received was from Speedway Motorsports Inc. President Marcus Smith.
"He's like, 'Alright, let's talk. This is intriguing to me,'" Hamlin continued. "And then a couple of NASCAR executives as well saying, 'Hey, we like this idea but we're going to circle the wagons here and see.' And the first thing I said was, 'Good luck getting everyone there to agree.' But it seems like, if I had to predict, they're definitely not doing anything like this year. I would say it's less than a 20% [chance] next year."
The idea doesn't seem very likely to happen until the next TV deal is all squared away. Hamlin said he fully believes it isn't a money issue that would stop this from happening.
"I don't know if it's a money thing or not, but they could for sure get somebody to sponsor this thing in two seconds and it could," Hamlin said. "They need to look at it sooner than later for sure, in my opinion. I think it's a very good thing just simply from the social interaction of people."
The feedback has helped increase the possibility of this idea coming to life. It likely won't occur until the 2025 season, when a new TV rights contract takes effect. Hamlin believes that the longer it takes, the more the fans will want it and try to pressure NASCAR into testing it before the rules are completely outlined.
If NASCAR were to do it with the current TV contracts, it would have to be split between Fox and NBC. So, it would seem more logical to wait for the next window, when NASCAR could carve out a five-race block and sell the package to the highest bidder. That could be Fox, NBC, or possibly even a streaming company, which has recently picked up steam in the latest reports about future TV rights for NASCAR.
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