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Sunday, February 11
NASCAR surprised by missing logos
ESPN.com news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR was surprised during Fox's first weekend coverage of the Budweiser Shootout when the network showed some race cars with sponsors' logos missing.

Fox broadcast its first event Sunday as part of a new, $2.8 billion contract, but the network spent Monday in meetings with executives of the racing circuit who were concerned about the sponsor flap.

On Sunday's broadcast, Fox showed accurate graphic depictions of cars sponsored by Budweiser, The Home Depot, Havoline, Dodge and other network clients. The cars of those companies who didn't buy sponsorship on Fox were depicted without logos.

Neither Lou D'Ermilio, the Fox vice president of communications, nor John Griffin, NASCAR's public relations director, would comment on specifics of Monday's talks. But D'Ermilio said the network would not ignore the complaints.

"We are very mindful of the industry's concerns," he said. "NASCAR came to us today with those concerns, relating to our graphics. We're going to discuss it internally and get back to NASCAR as soon as we can."

The sanctioning body, however, apparently is not prepared to order any changes in the Fox coverage.

"I can't stress enough that it's a partnership, and we're going to regroup with them tomorrow," Griffin said. "We knew there would be changes in the way they sold and the enhancements they would add to the telecast.

"This probably caught us off-guard."

D'Ermilio said Fox had no plans to back off agreement with its sponsors, but would not arbitrarily assert that no changes would be made. The goal, he said, is to be responsive to NASCAR and its fans.

"Obviously, it's a factor because we are rethinking our position," D'Ermilio said.

He refused to say how much the contracted advertisers paid.

"The bottom line for us with viewers is how we cover the races, and none of this had any effect on that," D'Ermilio said.

The flap with Fox was the second this year for NASCAR, which had a dispute last week with ESPN over the use of materials for its "RPM2Nite" magazine show.

NASCAR said interviews and images shot at the speedway could be used on ESPN's "SportsCenter" but not on "RPM2Nite."

In response, ESPN, which was part of the NASCAR coverage prior to the new contract, decided to turn down credentials for the Daytona 500.

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