Since this column was written and published, IMSA races will be seen this year on the Discovery-Velocity Channel with a one-hour post-race wrapup on TSN.
While I don’t want to throw a scare into everybody – as in, every auto racing fan in Canada – it is my duty to report that as of this writing (Sunday evening, Jan. 13, in Casino Windsor on the eve of the Detroit auto show’s media days), there will be no television coverage north of the border in two weeks of the Rolex 24 of Daytona.
That’s just the start. The same holds true for the 12 Hours of Sebring and all the rest of the IMSA-sanctioned sports car races that we all know and love. They will all be available on IMSA.com, of course, but I do not like, in 2019, watching anything on my computer screen and I lack the technical know-how to hook up my laptop to my big-screen TV.
The reason for this sorry state of affairs is that FOX Sports – FOX Sports Racing on some Canadian cable networks – either lost interest in televising motorsport, or was outbid for the properties, or the ratings didn’t justify the expenditure. Whichever, IMSA sports car racing is no longer available on FSR and will be carried in the U.S. by NBC Sports Channel, which is not available in Canada, thanks to the protectionism granted TSN and Sportsnet.
I asked IMSA about this and was told that they are “working on” making a deal with a Canadian cable channel. Maybe something will happen, maybe not. I suggest you not hold your breath.
When it comes to motorsports programming, Canada isn’t on the radar in the United States. For years, I have been receiving press releases from NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA about their television schedules and their famous races (Daytona 500, Indy 500, Sebring) and there is never a mention of Canada. Never. There have been Canadian teams, drivers and sponsors involved in all those series and it has never crossed the minds – apparently – of the communications people (some of whom have been Canadian) to include information like, “The Indianapolis 500 will be seen at 11 a.m. on NBC in the United States and at 11:30 a.m. on CTV in Canada.”
I remember once doing an interview with the guy who ran the old American Le Mans Series who was genuinely surprised to learn that Canadian racing fans couldn’t watch ALMS races on ESPN2. “You don’t get ESPN2 in Canada?” he asked.
The best example of this indifference toward this country was years ago when Imperial Tobacco (Player’s) was the title sponsor of the Toyota Atlantic Series. The series was owned and operated by U.S. interests. They would send out entry lists that would say things like, “Joe Shmo, Danbury, Conn., and “Bill Shmo, Evanston, Ill.” Then it would say, “Bob Shmo, Canada.” That used to drive me crazy. So I phoned Imperial Tobacco to complain and they laid down the law. Every driver got a hometown address after that. But, really . . .
I have my fingers crossed that IMSA can straighten this out and we can watch the Daytona 24 on TV.
Now, Sportsnet hasn’t said anything about IndyCar telecasts in 2019. People have asked. Scott Moore, who negotiated the contract when Randy Bernard got sick and tired of TSN showing races on tape delay instead of live (which wouldn’t happen today, with all the various channels the two sports networks now have) is no longer with the Rogers company. He used to attend the Honda Indy and hang around with people like IndyCar president Mark Miles. He was interested in racing; now he’s gone.
There will be no problem when races like the Indianapolis 500 or the Grand Prix of Long Beach are on the full NBC network, which is on all the cable systems up here. But most of the IndyCar races are on that NBC Sports Channel and – well, we can’t get the channel and, by extension, watch the races.
I emailed IndyCar and asked about this. I have not heard back. Uh-oh.