Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

Posted on: May 31, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 12:33 pm
By Pete Pistone

 Kyle Busch, Driver Of The #18 M&M's Toyota, Leads

Sunday’s two big races at Indianapolis and Charlotte were nearly mirror images of each other. 

Both featured lots of intrigue, strategy, surprises, endurance and in the end dramatic finishes. 

It was somewhat eerie to first watch JR Hildebrand hit the fourth turn wall heading to 500 checkered flag in a National Guard sponsored car only to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. experience the same fate with the exact sponsor six hours later. 

But at the end of the day what the 1,100 miles of competition did for the sport of auto racing was worth its weight in gold. 

The thrilling finishes gave racing a boost in public awareness and generated tremendous publicity outside the racing arena. 

National and local market mainstream media as well as general sports outlets that only talk motorsports when there’s a horrific crash or some other controversy dedicated a great deal of attention to Sunday’s racing doubleheader. 

The 100th Anniversary celebration of the Indianapolis 500 built-up anticipation for this year’s Memorial Day weekend race but delivering the finish it did Sunday was what really elevated the event back to its glory days, when Indy ranked up there with the biggest sports happenings in the world. 

NASCAR was able to bask in that glow for its longest event of the year and in many ways matched the day’s opening drama with its electrifying finish that saw Earnhardt sputter out of fuel on the final lap only to have Kevin Harvick race by for the win. 

That was big for the NASCAR world, which took a PR beating only days before with Kyle Busch’s 128 mph speeding ticket in a 45 mph zone. The sanctioning body not stepping up to at least criticize the behavior or try to make the public aware it does not condone such dangerous highway driving didn’t help the sport’s position in the eyes of many. 

But despite the overall goodwill auto racing created with Sunday’s back-to-back thrilling races, it’s still crystal clear which of the two forms of the sport is far and away the most popular. 

NASCAR hands down trumps Indy Car in that department. 

Overnight television ratings for this year’s Indy 500 were up from last year from a 4.0 in 2010 to a 4.3 on Sunday. That’s certainly a positive to take away from the telecast. 

However compare that to what the NASCAR Charlotte nightcap drew and it’s almost embarrassing. FOX reported a rating of 4.0 for the Coke 600, about flat from last season’s audience. 

That’s right, a regular season NASCAR stop generated roughly the same sized audience as not just Indy Car’s biggest race of the year, but in many people’s opinion still one of the most prestigious sports events in the world. 

And if you want to go head-to-head in sizing up TV numbers between Indy and NASCAR’s crown jewel Daytona 500, the results are even more one-sided. This year’s Daytona race ended up with an 8.2 mark, nearly double the size of Indianapolis. 

The point is although there’s no denying NASCAR’s numbers are down in both television ratings and attendance in recent years, the sport is far from being on life support. 

Held up to other forms of motorsports there really isn’t any comparison as NASCAR dwarfs everything from open wheel to drag racing to sports car racing. 

Take away the NFL, which is the king of all sports even while in a lockout, and NASCAR still holds its own.  Executives of the NBA, NHL or MLB would certainly love to see some of NASCAR’s television and attendance numbers in their respective leagues.

It should bode well for NASCAR as it kicks off its next round of television contract negotiations for the sport to still be as healthy as it is. Will the new deal come in for the nearly $5 billion the sanctioning body received from FOX, Turner and ABC/ESPN the last time through? I’d say yes given the audience size the sport still generates 

NASCAR is still viewed as a very viable asset and there’s discussion new suitors such as NBC and its new cable sports network arm, currently known as Versus, will dive into the mix. 

While it may not be on the same growth projection it was a decade ago, NASCAR remains established as a property with a huge following and one that even up against an event that transcends its sport and leaps into the general consciousness like the Indy 500 can out perform. 

The final evaluation of Sunday’s giant day for auto racing proves it.   

More NASCAR coverage

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: June 1, 2011 4:23 pm

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

Indy 500 attendance was up....Attendance in the 600 was way down....did you see all the empty seats in the NASCAR race,I see these two going in different directions with Indycar much more exciting and faster,NASCAR has become boring.Nobody in the Speedway knew who was going to win THE 500,and as usual the top teams dominated NASCAR until the end and pit stops changed the outcome.

Since: Aug 2, 2007
Posted on: June 1, 2011 3:31 pm

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

I would like to see the NASCAR driver run one race in an Indy car and then a race in the stock car the next day.

Since: Jun 19, 2010
Posted on: June 1, 2011 7:10 am

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

it was not National Guard day on Sunday losing both races on the last lap

Since: May 18, 2011
Posted on: June 1, 2011 1:18 am

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

Irishjohnny, you're comparing the wrong races.  If you really want to compare the two series, then you have to measure the indy 500 against the Daytona 500 because they are their sport's most prestigous races.  People were talking about the Daytona 500 A LOT this year because of the rookie winning it all.

Since: Mar 16, 2009
Posted on: May 31, 2011 11:45 pm

Nascar rocked ratings!

For two racing events, it wasn't close. The Indy 500 was run early in the day when people could watch before they left home for whatever celebration they were planning. The Coca-cola 600 was run in peak time when the majority of us were out at our events. And if you were asked to name 10 drivers from each series, how many people could do that who are "FANS?" And I'd like to thank the troops here and overseas who made it possible to enjoy the holliday!

Since: Feb 17, 2008
Posted on: May 31, 2011 10:32 pm

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

Ratings from Sunday can't measure the impact these races are going to have.  The Indy 500 is going to have a much larger impact and its a much bigger story than what NASCAR had.  Its been run many times on sportscenter and sports shows.  I've even heard a LOT of people talking about the 500 finish.  Even NASCAR fans in my office have been talking more about the 500 than NASCAR's race.  The 500 is back and in a big way.  NASCAR needs to start listening to the fans LIKE IndyCar has been if they want to get back to where they were. 

Since: Jan 7, 2007
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:44 pm

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

I meant telecasted

Since: Jan 7, 2007
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:41 pm

Idle Thoughts: NASCAR wins huge racing day

I prefer Nascar over Indy Car, but the Indy ratings leave out Indianapolis.  The 500 is always blacked out in the Indy market.  They did that for the Brickyard 400 the first 3 or 4 years before they finally broadcasted it live.  Even with the Indy market, the ratings still would have only been about 5.0, much lower than the Daytona 500 ratings.

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