We start our weekly look at NASCAR television ratings with its Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 weekend. In year two of their new television contracts with Fox and NBC we will take a weekly snapshot of how NASCAR performs against other sports and how it is doing historically.
My grandparents always told me if you are going to give someone bad news, start with something good. The Daytona 500 was the most watched sporting event on network or cable television this weekend. That is the lone ray of light in this look back on activities at the world center of speed.
The ratings for the CanAm Duels at Daytona were the lowest since the races moved to prime time. The 1.5 rating and 2.542 million viewers represented a 11% drop in rating and larger 16% in total viewers.
This year’s Daytona 500 garnered a 6.14 rating, down a whopping 16% from last years broadcast, a 7.7 with 13.36 million viewers. It is within less than a percent of the second-lowest rated Daytona 500 since the start of live flag-to-flag coverage. In 2013 the Daytona 500 rated a 9.9 with 16.651 million viewers, 38% higher than this years telecast. As of this writing the final numbers have not been released, but normal NASCAR telecast historically rise only about two tenths of a point from unofficial release to official release.
The decline since 2003, when the race had 29 million viewers, has to be troubling to NASCAR and network officials. This decline occurred when the race itself had the closest finish in Daytona 500 history. The problem being that the 497.5 miles before it were not very captivating. NASCAR has been boasting about its adoption of the lower downforce package that will be used at Atlanta this weekend. From the looks of the numbers, the same effort needs to be put into the restrictor plate cars as well.
NASCAR seemed to have everything it could going for it in Daytona. Chase Elliot, son of NASCAR legend, celebrated rookie driver was on the pole. The sports most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., winning a qualifying race looking like he would be a contender all day. Defending champion and the sports bearer of the black hat, Kyle Busch, also started on the front row. The weather was not an issue, new addition Jeff Gordon in the Fox broadcast booth and everything was lined up for this to be a banner day for NASCAR.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garnered a .3 rating with 1.4 million viewers. Trailing behind the Belator MMA live preflight show for the bout between Kimbo Slice and someone called DADA 5000 which received a 1.0 with 1.9 million viewers. The trucks race again this Saturday in a rare doubleheader with the Xfinity Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Speaking of the Xfinity Series, it received a .4 rating on Saturday with 2.12 million viewers. It did lead the night in total viewers, but four college basketball games on ESPN beat it out in the all important 18-49 rating ranging from a .5 up to a 1.0.
This week all three series return to Atlanta where last years Sprint Cup viewership increased year over year to a 5.6 with 9.5 million viewers. Those represented a 6% increase in rating and 8% in viewership. Last week’s huge drop leaves me scratching my head as to what I expect. I think after that 18% drop NASCAR would give a standing ovation to the same numbers as last year. Let me know how you think the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500 from Atlanta will fair on television this weekend.