CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - ESPN will use split screens during commercial breaks while broadcasting the 10 races of NASCAR's championship series.
The feature, called ``NASCAR NonStop,'' was announced Tuesday as ESPN previewed its programming plans. Network officials said the feature has been in the works for months, and was unrelated to Fox's use of a split screen during the final commercial break of its Sunday broadcast at Dover.
``Since we returned to NASCAR racing in 2007, one of the most common questions from our fans has been 'Why don't you do the commercials side-by-side?' `` said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content.
``We're very pleased to be able to do it now with ``NASCAR NonStop'' and showcase the advertiser while still showcasing the race. ESPN's mission is to serve sports fans and this is a way to give the fans more racing action during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.''
ESPN first introduced the split-screen format for its IndyCar coverage in 2005. The network did not utilize it for its NASCAR coverage.
Prior to Fox's use of split screen late in Sunday's race at Dover - when series title sponsor Sprint and two others agreed to share their screen time with racing - TNT was the only network to use the feature, during the July race at Daytona.
Now ESPN will use it during the second-half of its broadcasts of the 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The format will show the advertisement on the left side of the screen and racing on the right side.
ESPN said its scoring ticker will continue to move across the top of the screen during breaks.
The feature won't begin until the halfway point of the races. The first half of the race will feature traditional commercial breaks.
NASCAR officials believe the feature will please fans, and Fox received considerable praise following it's use of split screen Sunday.
``NASCAR has the most dedicated and loyal fans in the world, and we are constantly trying to enhance how those fans consume this great sport,'' said Paul Brooks, president of NASCAR Media Group.
``ESPN's 'NonStop' format will ensure our fans maximize their viewing experience during the most intense and thrilling time of the season.''
Fox has two races left on its portion of the NASCAR schedule. TNT picks up next month with six events, and ESPN/ABC take over with the July 31 race at Indianapolis. All 10 Chase races will be aired on ESPN.

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