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NASCAR looks for its TV ratings to bounce back

Viewership numbers have dropped in all 4 races this year compared to last year

Posted: March 20, 2014 - 9:42pm  |  Updated: March 20, 2014 - 10:24pm

AUTO CLUB 400

When: 3 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif.

TV: Fox.

Last year’s winner: Kyle Busch.

AP

Auto Racing

NASCAR officials have offered a variety of reasons for declining television ratings, ranging from competition from the NFL, an overall decline for most top-rated shows, boring finishes and the lack of wins by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

After four races this year, the sanctioning body doesn’t have all the answers as to why this year’s ratings have fallen at a record pace.

According to Nielsen Media Research, ratings have dropped in all four races this year compared to numbers of a year ago. And it comes without any competition from football, new rules that make winning important at all costs and the best start in Earnhardt’s career.

“I can’t concern myself with how much I move the needle,” Earnhardt said. “I think that goes outside of my comfort zone and what ... I think you need to concern yourself with if you’re as an individual. It’s relevant to me of course, but not important to me.

“I want the sport to be healthy. And I want to do things that help the sport and make an impact on the sport. I try to do those things always taking opinions and advice on what I can do better and what I’m not doing that I could be doing to help the sport.”

In fairness to NASCAR, two races – the season-opening Daytona 500 and last Sunday’s Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway – had long delays for rain. But it doesn’t explain why ratings dropped by five percent at Phoenix and 11 percent at Las Vegas.

Even with the drop, the two races were the highest-rated national sporting events on television.

Earnhardt won the Daytona 500, but that didn’t create any headway for the next two races at Phoenix and Las Vegas. Neither did the fact he finished second in both of those races.

When drivers were able to be on the track at Bristol, the racing was incredible with three- and four-wide racing on the half-mile track. The problem with that is it came several hours too late – and after FOX network moved the finish to its cable outlet FOX Sports 1.

The first 45 minutes of the race, however, were down seven percent from the same time compared to last year’s race.

NASCAR chairman Brian France said ratings were affected in 2009 and 2010 when Earnhardt didn’t win a race or qualify for the Chase for the Championship.

“It would have helped if he would have been competitive,” France said at the time. “He didn’t win an event and he certainly didn’t make our playoffs. And that’s unhelpful if you’re trying to build ratings.”

Much like Tiger Woods in golf, Earnhardt understands he helps drive interest in his sport. While he sometimes struggles with that pressure, he accepts the additional challenges.

“It’s just very uncomfortable because I don’t have the accolades and the hardware that a lot of these guys have, like a championship and things like that,” Earnhardt said. “I’m comfortable with the popularity and things like that because I feel like that we do a lot and we have a great fan base and we do a lot to engage with them.

“But carrying the sport is a whole other conversation or being the face of the sport is a whole other conversation. It’s a very uncomfortable position to be put in.”

NASCAR will try again to get its television numbers up to speed with this Sunday’s race at the Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, Calif. While it will go head-to-head with the NCAA basketball tournament, racing finally could catch the wave created by Earnhardt’s fast start.

Comments (2)

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Daniel Plainview
3040
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Daniel Plainview 03/21/14 - 04:42 pm
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0
Premium Member

Get rid of Toyota vehicles

Get rid of Toyota vehicles racing in NASCAR and the ratings will go back up. That has been the number one complaint since they allowed Toyota to compete in their races.

AntiGator
198
Points
AntiGator 03/21/14 - 10:36 am
0
0
Premium Member

Nascar only needs to look in

Nascar only needs to look in the mirror to see why ratings are down.

Races used to be pretty cheap, fun entertainment, but then Nascar decided to push out their core fans and opt for trying to obtain the corporate fan.

They lost me when I had to pay $30 on up for parking in Daytona, and I started seeing more makeup, 4 inch heels, mini dresses, and suits at the races aka people that were just there to be seen in the corporate boxes.

Add to this the channel switching. I used to automatically know that a race would be on Fox at 1 pm. Now the race is sometimes on Fox, sometimes on ESPN with varied start times.

Nascar's greed took the fun out of being a race fan.

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