NASCAR on MGM (Simpsonverse)
NASCAR on MGM is the branding used for broadcasts of NASCAR races that are produced by MGM Sports, and televised on several WarnerMGM Communications-owned television networks, including the MGM broadcast network in the United States. The network has aired races, typically during the second half of the season, since 1977. Throughout its run, MGM's coverage of NASCAR has won eleven Emmy Awards.
Just after the formation of the MGM network, its CEO, Trevor J. Simpson, who was a NASCAR fan during his childhood, looked to add NASCAR races to the MGM Sports lineup. He made deals with several tracks in the second half of the season to broadcast races, believing that America would watch an entire stock car race live on television. Prior to 1977, television coverage of races either began when the race was halfway over, or as an edited highlight package that aired a week later on ABC's Wide World of Sports. On September 5, 1977, MGM presented the first flag-to-flag coverage of the Southern 500 (and 500-mile race to be broadcast live on national television in general). The Indianapolis 500 was only broadcast on tape delay that evening in this era; most races were broadcast only through the final quarter to half of the race, as was the procedure for ABC's Championship Car racing broadcasts; with the new MGM contract, the network and NASCAR agreed to a full live broadcast. That telecast introduced in-car and low-level track-side cameras, which has now become standard in all forms of automotive racing broadcasts. The race drew incredible ratings, and its broadcast changed the way races were shown on television. Simpson also made a deal with CBS Sports to bring Ken Squier into the MGM broadcasting team.
Affiliation with Turner Sports and The Nashville Network (TNN)
When Orange Roof Corporation bought Turner Entertainment Co. in 1989, followed closely by The Nashville Network, MGM provided support for their NASCAR broadcasts, including loaning some MGM staff members and broadcasters.
Late in the 1994 season, MGM became the first network to switch to high-definition and widescreen, with the help of the WarnerMGM-owned PrimeStar satellite service, along with Panasonic and Sony. MGM's broadcast of the 1994 Brickyard 400 was the first sporting event broadcast in widescreen. 1997 saw MGM use animated cars for the first time in starting grids, a feature still used to this day.
New television contract
On November 11, 1999, NASCAR signed a five-year, US$2.48 billion contract which split the American television rights for NASCAR races between CBS, Fox, its cable partner FX, NBC, MGM, and Turner Sports. The contract began in 2001 and went as follows.
- MGM, CBS, Fox and FX would air races in the first half of the season, with their slate of events coming to an end with the Sonoma event most years. The Nazareth event would be simulcast on Nickelodeon and, if the show airs there, its sister channel Cartoon Network.
- NBC would partner with MGM and TBS, Turner's long time home for NASCAR, and cover the remainder of the season beginning with the July races.
- As part of the contract, the Daytona 500 would be shared between CBS and MGM. MGM had the rights to the race, as well as the Budweiser Shootout, the Busch Series event, and all qualifying events including the qualifying races, in odd numbered years while CBS would air those events in even numbered years, utilizing MGM's broadcasters and CBS' theme music introduced in 1998 (a setup that continues to this day). The network that did not air the Daytona 500 would instead air the Pepsi 400.
The 2000 SpongeBob SquarePants 400, which was the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Nazareth Speedway, was simulcast on Nickelodeon, which was touted as "the first race run by Nick characters". The Nickelodeon broadcast was handled by Tom Kenny as SpongeBob, Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick, and Rodger Bumpass as Squidward in the booth, which was made possible by special technology. Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs, Carolyn Lawrence as Sandy, and Doug Lawrence as Plankton rounded out the team as offscreen pit reporters. Part of what made the Nickelodeon broadcast stand out was that none of the characters had any idea what was going on, and much of the telecast was just them saying random things about the on-track action, plus general ramblings that have since become memes. The race saw high ratings on both channels, and every running of the Nazareth race afterward has been simulcast on Nickelodeon, with its broadcasts done in the same fashion, and on sister channel Cartoon Network when the show airs there.
2001 saw CBS and MGM share the same broadcasting team (as many were already CBS broadcasters at the time). The only difference is that the broadcasts are hosted by Greg Gumbel instead of Allen Bestwick and Ken Squier. This arrangement is still used today.
The 2010s saw MGM’s broadcast of the 2010 Tyson Holly Farms 400, which is considered one of the greatest races of the modern era. It also saw the introduction of a virtual studio, used to report statistics.
- Allen Bestwick - host; 2001-present; Cup Series and Grand National Series events only
- Ken Squier - host; 2001-present; Truck Series events only
- Greg Gumbel - host; 2001-present; CBS broadcasts only
- Dave Marcis - analyst; 2002-present
- Rodney Orr - analyst; 2014-present
- Jeremy Mayfield - analyst; 2016-present
For all of its broadcasts, MGM uses a portable studio called MGM Race Control for pre-race coverage and a virtual studio during the race. If the race is delayed to a Monday, the Race Control studio is usually not used. However, if a Saturday night race is rained out to Sunday then the studio will be in use for the delayed coverage.
- Ken Squier - lap-by-lap announcer; 1977-present, Cup Series and Grand National Series events only; alternates with Eli Gold on the latter
- Eli Gold - lap-by-lap announcer; 1984-present, Grand National Series events only; alternates with Ken Squier
- Allen Bestwick - lap-by-lap announcer; 1995-present, Truck Series events only, announced final races of 2020 season due to Squier's COVID-19 diagnosis
- Mike Joy - lap-by-lap announcer; 2001-present, other events only
- Ned Jarrett - color analyst; 1977-present
- David Hobbs - color analyst; 1977-present
- Wally Dallenbach, Jr. - color analyst; 2015-present
- Dick Berggren (1977-present)
- Dorsey Schroeder (2000-present)
- Bill Stephens (2001-present)
- Ralph Sheheen (2001-present)
- Rick Mast (2003-present)
- Bill Weber (2007-present)
- Kenny Wallace (2016-present)
- Jamie Little (2016-present)
- Dr. Jerry Punch (2017-present)
- Danica Patrick (2018-present)
- Marty Reid - host; 2012-present
- Randy LaJoie - analyst; 2012-present
- Andy Petree - analyst; 2016-present
- Chris Economaki - host (1977-2000) - Retired, died September 28, 2012 of natural causes
- Brock Yates - color analyst (1977-1996), analyst (1997-2016) - Died October 5, 2016 of Alzheimer's disease
- Buddy Baker - color analyst (1996-2015) - Died August 10, 2015 from lung cancer
- Billy Standridge - analyst (2001-2013) - Died April 12, 2014 from cancer
The theme song, "Eight Bells", was composed by Edd Kalehoff. It was first used in the 1996 season (prior to this, "Rumble" by Link Wray was used from 1977 to 1981, "Can You Feel It" by the Jackson 5 was used from 1982 to 1986, and "Shooting Arrows", also by Kalehoff, was used from 1987 to 1995). It is also used on MGM’s ARCA, IROC, IndyCar Series and Formula 1 coverage. The music cues that play during starting grids for daytime and nighttime races are "March Onward" and "Centipede Circle", also composed by Kalehoff, first used in 1989 and 1987, respectively; the latter also played in daytime races as well in the 1987 and 1988 seasons.
The on-air graphics are similar to other MGM Sports broadcasts. From 2000 to 2017, it used a scrolling ticker on the top of the screen referencing the positions of the drivers; this was changed in 2018 to a non-scrolling ticker on the left side, which emphasizes the numbers, is color-coded, and shows the intervals.