Times to be more friendly for fans

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The fans spoke and NASCAR listened.

Starting with the season-opening Daytona 500, start times for Sprint Cup Series races will be more unified in 2010, the sanctioning body said Wednesday.

The Daytona 500 on Feb. 14 will get the green flag at 1 p.m. ET. It's one of 28 races which will feature an earlier starting time.

"It's become clear to us that traditional, early Sunday afternoon, start times are favored by NASCAR fans who both attend races and watch on television," said Fox Sports chairman David Hill . "NASCAR, perhaps more than any other sport, belongs to the generation of fans who have passed on their passion, father to son, so whatever we can do to make them feel better connected to the sport they love should be done."

There were 12 different start times for 36 regular-season races this year. Starting with Daytona, most day races east of the Mississippi River will start at 1 p.m., while day races out west will start at 3 p.m. Night races, including the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on July 3, will have 7:30 p.m. starting times.

The lone exception is a 5:45 start for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 30.

TRACK OVERHAUL: The first step in reviving fan support at Auto Club Speedway was moving its second racing date into the Chase for the Championship. Another idea is to increase the banking at the two-mile track to make for better racing.

But until the track can fill seats, starting with Sunday's Pepsi 500, most drivers don't believe that kind of makeover will happen.

"There is nothing wrong with the race track out there," Jeff Gordon said. "I think this puts it in the best perspective: the NFL is a great game and it is the most popular sport in our country, and they cannot make an NFL franchise work in Los Angeles. Why is that? I don't think you can do anything."

"I don't think you're going to do anything that's going to change the interest level. There's just so many options of things to do."

NEW AND IMPROVED: The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. tested a bigger tire Tuesday and Wednesday at Richmond International Speedway. The tire company hopes a bigger tire will give crew chiefs more latitude on adjustments to enhance competition.

The new tire will be mounted to a 17-inch rim, instead of the standard 15-inch rim. The new tire also will be 1 inch wider and 1 inch taller.

A Goodyear spokesman said the idea for a bigger tire is "very preliminary" and it could be a year, if at all, before they are used.


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