Racing, golf winding down

They're still racing cars and they're still playing golf.

We'll explain.

The NASCAR season, which started around Valentine's Day, comes to a close this weekend with the Sprint Cup Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

ESPN's telecast begins at 1 p.m. with the green flag at 2:15 p.m. Drivers Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are separated by only three points entering the finale.

ESPN will use 72 cameras on telecast, including two stationed high above the 1.5-mile superspeedway that will solely focus on championship contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, giving ESPN the ability to show viewers the two drivers at any time during the race. In addition, both will carry onboard cameras, and Stewart will be ESPN In-Race Reporter and will speak with ESPN analyst Dale Jarrett on the race’s pace laps and during caution periods.


ESPN will also  have robotic cameras in the garage stalls of both contenders, permitting overhead views of the respective race teams at work or if one of both must go to the garage for repairs during Sunday’s race.

NASCAR Countdown will include a feature on Stewart and his relationship with legendary racer A.J. Foyt, who was the inspiration for Stewart to carry No. 14 when he started his own NASCAR Sprint Cup team three years ago. NASCAR Countdown also will include a feature on Edwards and his Roush Fenway team being "championship ready" and an orchestral salute to Jimmie Johnson, whose reign of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles ended this year.

Jarrett expects a close finish.

"Tony’s won four races in the Chase, and Carl’s been just totally consistent the entire time, not finishing worse than 11th,'' Jarrett said earlier this week on a conference call. "They’ve scored the same number of points in these nine races. It’s just incredible. And now they go to Homestead with basically the idea that whoever wins the race is going to win the championship, and that’s the way that it should be.''

• Now golf.

The NBC Sports Group will have  50 total hours of coverage of The Presidents Cup 2011 from the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, which started on Wednesday and runs through Sunday on both Golf Channel and NBC.

Despite Melbourne’s 15-hour difference from the Central Time zone, Golf Channel will provide 27  hours of live coverage of all four rounds – much of it in prime time. This marks the first time that all four rounds of a Presidents Cup competition played outside of North America will be presented live.

Golf Channel (today) and NBC (Saturday and Sunday) will also combine to show 23 hours of re-packaged coverage for replay. Golf Channel also will televise 23 live hours of news coverage surrounding live play in the form of Live From The Presidents Cup, originating both from Melbourne and the network’s Orlando studios.


Around the tube

• Next week is Feast Week — Monday through Sunday — on the ESPN family of networks. The men's college basketball schedule includes 53 telecasts on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU plus six games on ESPN3. .

• A record audience watched the UFC card on Fox last Saturday when Junior dos Santos defeated defending champion Cain Velasquez in a first round knockout to claim the heavyweight crown.  It was the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind in eight years with 5.7 million viewers.

In 2003, 7.0 million watched the Lewis-Kitschko fight on HBO while on broadcast network, 5.9 million tuned in for an Oscar De Ha Hoya fight of Fox in 1998.

• More ratings. The Fox national telecast (mostly Giants-49ers) last Sunday was the most-watched program on television last week (Nov. 7 - 11) drawing an average of 25.9 million viewers.

• Last week’s Oakland -San Diego  game on the NFL Network was watched by an average of 5.3 million viewers, which was a six percent increase from last year’s opening night record (5.0 million for Ravens-Falcons). It was the  No. 1 show on cable that Thursday night,and the  was the most-watched opener in the six seasons of Thursday Night Football.

Next Thursday night  — Thanksgiving — will be a game between coaching brothers — John Harbaugh of Baltimore against Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco.

St. Charles native Brad Nessler is in his first year of doing play-by-play for the NFL Network.


• The announcers for the Minnesota-Northwestern game Saturday (11 a.m.) on the Big Ten Network are Wayen Larrivee, former Gophers coach Glen Mason and Jon Jansen.

• The Fox No. 1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be in Green Bay on Sunday for the noon Packers-Tampa Bay game. That game will not be shown in the Twin Cities market, since it runs up against the Vikings-Raiders game. The Packers-Bucs game will, however, be seen on the Fox affiliate in Rochester, KXLT.

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