NASCAR poised to bounce back from Gateway ‘disaster’

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

With Chase Elliott returning after a one-race suspension, NASCAR can expect ratings to jump during this Sunday’s Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott is set to return to the No. 9 Chevrolet for this Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway. The Toyota/Save Mart 350 is set to mark Elliott’s first start since he competed in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday, May 29.

Elliott was suspended for one race after he was deemed to have intentionally wrecked Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin as an act of retaliation during the Coca-Cola 600.

He was forced to sit out of this past Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Corey LaJoie, the usual driver of the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet, filled in for NASCAR’s most popular driver behind the wheel of the No. 9 Chevrolet in this race.

As Elliott said ahead of this coming weekend’s race, the 2023 season has been somewhat stop-and-go for him, as he has only competed in eight of the first 15 races. He also missed six races back in March and April after suffering a broken left tibia in a Colorado snowboarding crash. He remains playoff eligible, having been granted a waiver after both of his recent absences.

Due to the fact that Chase Elliott is the five-time reigning winner of the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award, the season has been somewhat stop-and-go for NASCAR in terms of ratings as well.

Ratings dropped significantly when Elliott unexpectedly missed six races earlier this season, and they unsurprisingly dipped again this past weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway due to his suspension.

NASCAR saw the ratings “disaster” coming, but they made what they felt was the right decision to suspend Elliott anyway, in order to remain consistent with the suspension issued to 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace for a similar act of retaliation last October.

In addition to the fans who didn’t watch the six races earlier this season which Elliott missed simply because he wasn’t competing, there was an added contingent within the sport’s largest driver fanbase who boycotted this past Sunday’s event because of the fact that NASCAR had suspended him.

Ratings were down nearly 14% from last year’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, though a small percentage of that total can probably be attributed to the lightning delay as well.

But now NASCAR is set for a sizable jump in this Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Not only is Elliott returning, but he is returning at a track where many view him as one of the favorites to win. Surely his fans won’t want to miss it.

Despite having not won a road course race since July 2021, Elliott remains the sport’s winningest active road course racer with seven wins, which is just two shy of the all-time record.

Chase Elliott is listed by DraftKings Sportsbook as the second favorite (tied with teammate Kyle Larson) to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

Here are the top five favorites to win that event, courtesy of DraftKings.

  • Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing: +450
  • Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: +500
  • Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports: +500
  • William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports: +850
  • Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing Team: +900

Odds and availability subject to change. Full odds list available at DraftKings.

Sign up with DraftKings to bet now and take advantage of their current bet $5 to win $200 promotion!

Of course, the fact that the race is set to be broadcast live on Fox as opposed to Fox Sports 1 certainly adds to the potential for a ratings boost, but don’t underestimate the impact of Elliott’s return in itself.

This race is the final race set to be broadcast live on Fox this year, with NBC and USA Network set to take over following the lone off weekend of the season next weekend.

The Ally 400 is set to kick things off for NBC at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 25, and it is set to be broadcast live beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Tune in to Fox at 3:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, June 11 for the live broadcast of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now if you have not yet done so!