NASCAR hit hard by Chase Elliott fan Gateway boycott?

Corey LaJoie, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Gateway, NASCAR (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Corey LaJoie, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Gateway, NASCAR (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /

NASCAR Cup Series ratings were down at Gateway on Sunday compared to last year’s race, but how much of that is down to the Chase Elliott fan boycott?

After NASCAR announced that Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott had been suspended for this past Sunday’s Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for what they deemed was an intentional act of retaliation against Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway, many Elliott fans made clear their intention to boycott the event.

When Elliott, the five-time reigning Most Popular Driver Award winner, missed six races earlier this season with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a Colorado snowboarding accident, ratings dropped significantly.

Those ratings were down simply because the fan-favorite wasn’t able to compete and thus a contingent of fans within his huge fanbase had no interest in watching. This time around, the fans who had no interest in watching also had interest in making a statement.

Unsurprisingly, with Chase Elliott out, ratings dropped from last year’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Gateway to this year’s.

The Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter was contested on the same weekend as it was last year, and both races were shown live on Fox Sports 1 as opposed to regular Fox.

Having said that, the dip wasn’t as huge as some expected it would be, though it’s tough to argue that it wasn’t significant.

Last year’s race earned a 1.47 rating and had 2.502 million viewers, while this year’s event earned a 1.27 rating and had only 2.16 million, according to Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern.

It ultimately comes out to a 13.67% drop, and while a large part of that can probably be attributed to the fact that the largest driver fanbase in the sport was missing a significant chunk of its usual audience, surely some of it can also be attributed to the fact that the race was delayed by lightning.

But NASCAR knew what they signed up for when they suspended Elliott, and they still made what was largely considered to be the right call, especially in light of last October’s Bubba Wallace suspension.

Fortunately for NASCAR and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the event was still a sellout, just like it was in its first season in 2022. Track promoters continue to do an amazing job at this particular venue, just as they have done for IndyCar since the series returned to the Greater St. Louis area in 2017.

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Nonetheless, expect a jump in ratings for this Sunday afternoon’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, with Elliott set to be back behind the wheel of the No. 9 Chevrolet. The race is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET, so start a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!