- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Call it the “Sunday Ticket” of NASCAR.

The nation’s most popular racing league is partnering with DirecTV to form five new pay-per-view channels that give fans a close-up perspective of individual drivers during Nextel Cup races. The NASCAR HOTPASS service will provide inside views of drivers during the race, and will allow fans to hear radio communications and see statistics about their favorite cars.

“It really is a full production for each driver’s channel,” said Eric Shanks, DirecTV’s vice president of advanced products and new media. “You’ll get complete and full coverage. This is probably the closest in sports history you can get to a live sporting event.”

DirecTV will broadcast 38 Nextel Cup races on the HOTPASS service. Fans who sign up before Jan 31 will pay $79. After that, the service will cost $99. It is also available on a weekly basis for $29.99

Shanks said the new service is targeted to die-hard NASCAR fans who attend most races in their area, and who are fans of specific drivers. A fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., for instance, can follow him from start to finish during the race and hear communications between the driver and the pit crew. Each driver will have its own announcing team, who will have the ability to interview the driver during pit stops.

“There really are 43 different races going on the track each Sunday,” Shanks said. “It they’re a fan of the No. 8 car, they can follow the Number 8 car for the entire race.”

NASCAR and DirecTV tested the new service with Tony Stewart during the Brickyard 500 in 2005, and also tested it with Earnhardt Jr. at Las Vegas in March.

The decision on which five drivers to follow will be made on a week-to-week basis.

DirecTV and NASCAR officials admit to taking a risk with the venture. It is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, because they will need as many as 70 additional on-track workers, 10 new announcers and countless cameras.

DirecTV was still seeking announcers for the races. Shanks said they may get fill-in announcers from drivers who didn’t qualify on a given week.

“It’s going to be a circus,” Shanks said. “We’re making it up as we go.”

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