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DTV NASCAR Campaign Off To Bumpy Start

The road to digital TV apparently includes the wall at the Martinsville, VA, Speedway.

The FCC's sponsorship of NASCAR driver David Gilliland got off to a rocky start when a late-race accident Sunday--with only an unlucky 13 laps to go--caused him to finish 32nd out of an original 43-car field and put more than a few dents and dings into his #38 DTV Transition Ford.

The FCC has ponied up $350,000 to sponsor Gilliland in three short-track races--appropriate since there are less than four short months until analog broadcasters hit their own wall Feb. 17, 2009.

“It’s such a disappointing way to end our weekend,” said Gilliland in a race summary on his Web site. “We had a pretty tight-handling car all afternoon, but my team made adjustments all race long to help loosen it up in the turns a little more for me. I really think we could have brought home a top-20 finish today for our Digital TV Transition Ford, but unfortunately we got shoved into the wall there right at the end and the damage was just too much to be able to repair in time."

At least the FCC got the spotlight that always goes on a crash, and Gilliland's Web site liberally sprinkled the race summary with references to the "Digital TV Transition Ford," rather than, say, "the car."

An FCC spokesman was not available for comment at press time.

Gilliland will also be racing toward the digital transition at Phoenix International Raceway Nov. 9 and Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16.

For that $350,000 the FCC gets signage on the hood, sides and back of the car as well as on the driver's suit. The hood will feature a picture of a TV set and the words: "Is your TV ready for digital," as well as a yellow banner with "DTV Transition Deadline: February 17, 2009," inside.

It will also say "DTV transition" on the back and sides of the car.

The FCC says those races will reach an average 8 million weekly TV audience, as well as some 125,000 spectators in the stands at each race.