Good combinations endure, and as NASCAR and its television partners prepare for the 2004 season, more than engines are ready to roar. As final technical preparations fall into place, NASCAR, NBC, TNT, FOX, FX and the SPEED Channel are eagerly anticipating their fourth season together. Clearly, prior progress is significant. According to Nielsen Media Research, 189 million households tuned in to watch NASCAR?s premier series in 2003 ? a 58% gain over the 120 million households that tuned in during the 2000 season. Also, 281 million viewers tuned into the 2003 season, up 54% over the 183 million viewers who tuned in during 2000. All of which means audiences and the resources to enthrall them have increased, and so has NASCAR?s television reach. It?s a trend that should continue in 2004. TNT kicks off Speedweeks activities at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 7 with the Budweiser Shootout, the annual 70-lap sprint that showcases the previous season?s Bud Pole winners. This year?s Budweiser Shootout airs at 8 p.m. TNT will also broadcast the twin 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 12, with an air time of 1 p.m. In addition, SPEED Channel will air over 70 hours of Speedweeks coverage from Feb. 6 ? Feb. 16. NBC returns to broadcast the 46th annual Daytona 500 at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 due to the annual rotation with FOX of the sport?s most prestigious event. Allen Bestwick will resume his play-by-play role and will again be joined by 1973 series champion Benny Parsons and former series driver Wally Dallenbach in the booth. Bill Weber returns as host of the NASCAR on NBC/TNT pre-race show and will also serve as lead pit reporter. Following the Daytona 500, NBC yields to FOX for the first half of the season. NBC returns July 11 with the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway; the network and its cable partner TNT will broadcast the season?s final 19 events ? including the last eight races in succession on NBC, plus the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21. Of particular note during that stretch run is the Mountain Dew Southern 500, which moves from its traditional Labor Day slot to become the series? penultimate event Nov. 14 at historic Darlington Raceway. The Mountain Dew Southern 500 airs at 1:30 p.m. During the season?s first half, FOX?s in-booth roster also returns intact. Play-by-play voice Mike Joy welcomes back three-time series champion Darrell Waltrip and former crew chief Larry McReynolds. Pre-race coverage is hosted by Chris Myers and analyst Jeff Hammond. Following the Daytona 500, FOX?s 2004 coverage kicks off at 1 p.m. on Feb. 22 with the Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway. FOX?s coverage of the season?s first half continues through the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3 ? a string of 16 events. Two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races will air on FX, one of FOX?s cable partners; the Pontiac Performance 400 May 15 at Richmond International Speedway, where coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., and the MBNA America 400 on June 6 at Dover International Speedway, where coverage begins at 1 p.m. Additionally, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup All-Star Challenge non-points event will air on May 22 at 7:30 p.m. on FX. The 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series features seven night races, including three consecutive evening events in late August-early September ? the Sharpie 500 on Aug. 28 at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. on TNT); the Pop Secret 500 Sept. 5 at California Speedway (7 p.m. on NBC), marking California?s second event of 2004 and the first time the track has hosted two races in a season; and the Chevy Monte Carlo 400 on Sept. 11 at Richmond (7:30 p.m. on TNT). The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series isn?t the only series to enjoy NASCAR?s television partnership. As part of Speedweeks coverage, NBC will televise the NASCAR Busch Series season opener Feb.

14 at Daytona. The Hershey?s Kisses 300 will air at 12:30 p.m. FOX will broadcast the first half of the NASCAR Busch Series season, beginning with the Rockingham 200 on Feb. 21 at North Carolina Speedway; it airs at 1 p.m. on FX. Fox will broadcast the first 17 NASCAR Busch Series events (13 on FX), with the final event to be the Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo on July 2 at Daytona; it airs at 8 p.m. NBC takes the NASCAR Busch Series television baton beginning with the Twister 300 at Chicagoland on July 10; it airs at 2 p.m. During the season?s second half, NBC and TNT will combine on the final 16 events, with NBC broadcasting four and TNT airing 12. NBC wraps up coverage by airing the season-ending Ford 300 at 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at Homestead. The NASCAR Busch Series boasts 10 prime time races in 2004, including four straight in June and July. The streak ? all on FX and all airing at 8 p.m. ? begins with the June 12 Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. It includes the June 19 Meijer 300 presented by Oreo at Kentucky Speedway, the June 26 event at the Milwaukee Mile, and ends with the Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo at Daytona on July 2.

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