Rolling into this weekend’s final event of the season, the Auto Club Finals from Pomona, Calif., the inaugural season of the NHRA on FOX has delivered some of the largest television audiences in drag racing history, with four events topping one million viewers and four more eclipsing 750,000.
Through 23 events, average viewership of the NHRA on FS1/FOX is up 25 percent year-to-year versus ESPN/ESPN2’s 2015 numbers (650,000 vs. 521,000). And, perhaps more importantly, gains with younger viewers have been even more impressive, with Adults 18-49 posting a 50 percent increase and Adults 25-54 up 46 percent.
With three of the four professional categories still undecided, FOX Sports delivers a three-hour live broadcast on Sunday, Nov. 13 (4-7 p.m. ET) on FS1. One-hour NHRA on FOX Qualifying sessions air on FS1 on Saturday, Nov. 12 (12:30 a.m. ET) and Sunday, Nov. 13 (11:30 a.m. ET).
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Dave Rieff hosts NHRA on FOX coverage, with two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon providing analysis and Jamie Howe, Bruno Massel and John Kernan reporting from the pits.
Offering perspective from his first year as a FOX Sports television analyst, Pedregon talks about his inaugural season behind the mic:
FOX Sports: So, your first year as a television analyst is about done — grade your effort and tell me where you feel like you are now as compared to the first event of the season.
Pedregon: “On a scale of 1-10, I would give myself a 3 for the opening race (voices in my earpiece really threw me)… and that might be a little generous. At this point, maybe getting closer to a 7, but I am a perfectionist and I know I can get better. I see so many things that are interesting that I know I can find a way to bring to light.”
Pedregon: “Crazy spectacular. If I could call that again I would just say, ‘Imagine yourself in his seat.’ Everything had to go silent and from his perspective, he had to be thinking what's going to happen when I land.”
FOX Sports: On the track, whose performance surprised you the most this season?
Pedregon: “Antron (Brown) was not a big surprise, considering I believe they are the most well-balanced Top Fuel team. I thought Doug Kalitta might be able to pull it off, but the team didn't finish strong. I would say Capps is the biggest surprise. There were many teams that challenged throughout the year, but they managed to maintain the points lead nearly all season in a very tough category.”
FOX Sports: With a third Top Fuel title, where does Antron Brown start to fit in with the all-time nitro greats?
Pedregon: “In a category with drivers like (Don) Garlits, (Tony) Schumacher, (Kenny) Bernstein, & (Shirley) Muldowney, I would put him getting close to top five. I would rank him higher than some not mentioned if we are talking about sheer driver ability.”
FOX Sports: What will the big NHRA storyline(s) be heading into 2017?
Pedregon: “Even better TV ratings as our on-air chemistry continues to improve and everyone gets the first year under our belts. Another should be who can stop Antron. A few drivers have the performance, but can they elevate their game? Pro Stock will be much more interesting considering the growing parody in the class. Several teams can now challenge Greg Anderson and Jason Line, but they will be solid. Pro Stock Motorcycle will be fun to watch. And teams forming and merging, with strong fields at every event.”
FOX Sports: OK, one full season away from the track — any desire to get back behind the wheel?
Pedregon: “It's hard not to think about getting behind the wheel, especially when I'm at the track every race. I just have to keep reminding myself I've done it plenty of times.”
To learn more about Pedregon and the entire NHRA on FOX broadcast team, please visit FOX Sports Press Pass for bios, photos and archived press releases.