Numbers Don’t Lie, NASCAR Rules Racing in America

Photo finish! The NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, February, 2024.

Getty Images Photo finish! The NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, February, 2024.

Formula 1 and INDYCAR are on notice. NASCAR TV ratings dominate, at least in America. And NASCAR’s new $7.7 billion television deal spanning traditional broadcasters, cable networks, and streaming platforms could prove a bargain if current trends hold.

Ratings for NASCAR, which had been slumping, appear to now be on the upswing — and are easily besting other racing events.

NASCAR garnered six million viewers for the Daytona 500, which got pushed to a Monday night due to rain. Almost as good, the Pennzoil 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway took in 4.36 million viewers — making it the most-watched sporting event in America for that weekend. And NASCAR’s 2024 television numbers continue to look good.

Last week’s Shriners Children’s 500 at the Phoenix Raceway delivered just over 4 million viewers for FOX. Certainly, NASCAR ratings were propelled, in part, by fans hoping for another 3-way photo finish, which is what they got at the Ambetter Health 400 in Atlanta.

But 4.028 million average viewers is a strong number. Especially when compared to last year’s championship race in Phoenix, which averaged just 2.86 million viewers.

NASCAR Viewers More Than F1 & INDYCAR Combined

The numbers do not lie. When it comes to television viewers, NASCAR dominates racing in America. As numbers for F1 and INDYCAR trend downward, at least in America, NASCAR TV numbers are growing stronger.

Consider that while NASCAR delivered over 4 million viewers for FOX last weekend, on NBC, INDYCAR managed just under 1 million viewers. And that was for its season opener in St. Petersburg. Likewise, the F1 race in Saudi Arabia, televised Saturday night on ESPN, managed only about 900,000 viewers.

NASCAR’s ‘Gen Z’ Social Media Strategy Also Paying Off

As its television numbers improve, NASCAR is also aggressively moving into ‘off-track’ content — in hopes of growing their audience and increasing their “pop culture pull.” A prime example, the Netflix series, NASCAR: Full Speed.

As Heavy wrote in February, “the show’s popularity cannot be denied. An analysis by Parrot Analytics reveals that audience demand for ‘NASCAR: Full Speed’ is within the top 8.6% of all shows over the past month.”

The debut series, executive produced by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., made it into the top 5 most watched list on Netflix in both the US and Canada. Bonus, it also did well overseas.

These new media efforts work in concert. As Denny Hamlin noted, “casual fans” and social media engagement are both up thanks, in part, to NASCAR: Full Speed. All this is helping bring in new viewers for the races.

NASCAR understands that social media is where they will make new fans. As AdBuzzDaily noted, “NASCAR’s strategy revolves around cultivating driver brands and enhancing fan loyalty by encouraging fans to connect with their favorite drivers. This approach involves empowering drivers to actively promote the sport through their own channels and mediums, thereby amplifying NASCAR’s reach and engagement.”

This also means there will be more driver-focused content. Per VP of Fan Engagement David Zane, “fans in general are more attracted to the sport when they have someone to root for.”

In other words, expect more shows, events, and social media content to be focused on specific drivers, particularly younger drivers. All part of NASCAR’s plan to reach beyond its traditional audience even as it seeks to grow its television viewership.