It’s no secret that more Americans tune in
to watch NASCAR than any other form of
racing. The 2013 Daytona 500 generated
a Nielsen Rating of 9. 9, which equates to
an average of 16. 7 million viewers, while
IndyCar’s entire 2012 season of 15 races,
including the Indy 500, combined for a
Nielsen of 10. 69 and 17. 97 million viewers.
We’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in.
The biggest Sprint Cup race on the
calendar nearly matches an entire year of
televised IndyCar competition…and gauging
where sports car racing stacks up in the
ratings queue is even harder to figure out.
ALMS, with many of its events streamed
live on ESPN3.com, is hard to quantify,
although the rebroadcasts on ABC have
had favorable results. Grand-Am’s Rolex
Series, which airs exclusively on FOX-owned
cable outlets, settled into average ratings in
the .2 to . 3 range, similar to the . 3 IndyCar
receives on the NBC Sports Network.
While open-wheel and sports car racing
A TOUCH OF PERSPECTIVE…
look for ways to make inroads on NASCAR’s
giant slice of the viewing pie, stick ’n’ ball
stereotype, one might have expected
those 400,000 people in the Emerald
City to choose NASCAR, but no...
NASCAR’s biggest TV draw, the
Daytona 500, brought in less than half
the viewers of the recent New England
Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons Sunday Night
Football game on NBC, while IndyCar’s
jewel, the Indy 500, put up a 3. 7 rating in
2013, averaging 5. 7 million viewers.
Tracks have become increasingly guarded
with their attendance figures, making
year-to-year comparisons difficult, and with
the temptation to inflate the numbers, a
correction factor is always required.
Barber Motorsports Park’s combined
IndyCar/Grand-Am event reportedly drew
81,000 fans over three days in 2012, and
83,564 this year. The Detroit Grand Prix
estimates 95,000 for IndyCar/Grand-Am
in 2012 and 100,000 for ’ 13. Long Beach
put its 2012 IndyCar/ALMS event at
170,000 and ’ 13 at 174,255. If they’re
accurate, road racing is seeing incremental
growth in terms of fans through the gate.
Compared with football, TV viewing figures for racing – even NASCAR – are fleas on the elephant
sports are on an entirely different plane,
with the NFL up on a level all its own.
The 2013 Super Bowl generated a
Nielsen Rating of 46. 4 and an average
audience of 108. 7 million viewers, the
second highest in history. Even on a local
level, the power of the NFL is frightening.
Nearly 400,000 fans in Charlotte, N.C.,
tuned in to watch a late September game
where the Carolina Panthers beat the New
York Giants, while 80,000 or so Charlotte
NASCAR fans – set right in the middle of
stock car country – watched the Dover
Sprint cup race on ESPN. Given the