- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Nine of NASCAR’s 10 championship races will be available online for the first time in history.

ESPN and Turner Sports planned to announce Wednesday that NASCAR.com’s RaceBuddy feature will be available during the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. NASCAR programming will also appear for the first time on ESPN’s WatchESPN.com platform and WatchESPN application.

“Enhancing the viewing experience and improving the sport’s digital and social presence for our millions of fans, at the track, at home and everywhere in between, is a goal we never lose sight of,” said Marc Jenkins, NASCAR’s vice president of digital media.

“Being able to offer this series of interactive products during the Chase will further engage our fans with a robust digital presence that will forever change how the championship points battle is consumed.”

The agreement is a huge breakthrough for NASCAR, which has been unable to establish an online viewing presence because of its multiple broadcasting contracts. The only time race coverage is available online is during the six races TNT broadcasts during the summer. Fox and ESPN split the rest of the schedule.

The 10-race Chase begins this Sunday at Chicago. The Oct. 15 event at Charlotte is the only race that won’t be available online because it is airing on ABC, which doesn’t allow events to be shown live online to protect its affiliate stations.

Under the new deal, NASCAR.com’s RaceBuddy will feature two mosaics with a mix of eight in-car and stationary cameras positioned around the track. Audio from team radios will be available with the coordinating in-car cameras.

Turner Sports is delighted to partner with NASCAR and ESPN to expand the award-winning RaceBuddy on NASCAR.COM to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup,” Matthew Hong, senior vice president and general manager, sports operations, Turner Sports, said in a statement.

Turner manages NASCAR.com

“Feedback from fans has been that they wish RaceBuddy were available for additional races outside the TNT portion of the season,” Hong said. “We’re proud to be able to bring them ChaseBuddy and extend the interactive and immersive experience of RaceBuddy to nine playoff races.”

ESPN’s live broadcast will now be available for fans to watch on their computer, smartphone or tablet through ESPN’s WatchESPN app and WatchESPN.com.

“Our mission is to serve sports fans anytime, anywhere, and with WatchESPN and our new partnership with NASCAR and Turner, we can now extend that mission by making our NASCAR programming available to race fans wherever they might be,” Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions, said in a statement.

“I can’t think of a more perfect time to launch this than the beginning of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.”

ESPN’s daily NASCAR show “NASCAR Now” will also be available for the first time through WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app, as will telecasts of the Nationwide Series races on ESPN and ESPN2.

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