A sport we don't talk about too much is auto racing. However, the popularity of IndyCar in America took a harsh step back in 2012 that's worth taking notice. The racing league posting its lowest ratings ever on NBC Sports Network, a drop of 27% from last season according to Sports Media Watch. The races didn't even average 300,000 viewers on NBC Sports after topping 400,000 in 2011. NBC Sports started airing IndyCar in 2009. ABC also saw ratings drop 17% from last year's season, although the Indy 500 was only down 5% from last year.
There are plenty of reasons to get into for the waning popularity for IndyCar, and perhaps the most significant is the full-time departure of Danica Patrick to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Regardless of how you feel about Patrick's skill on the racetrack, she draws eyeballs to the sport, and that's an inarguable fact.
Another reason for IndyCar's struggles this year could be tied to the tragic death of Dan Wheldon in the final race of the 2011 season. Wheldon's death cast a shadow over the entire sport, and may have disenfranchised fans after last season's final race in Las Vegas.
IndyCar has lost tons of fans to NASCAR over the last couple decades, but this latest news may be even more concerning because this is one unified series we're talking about. A drop of over a quarter of your television viewership is staggering and the brass is going to need to seriously consider some big changes for the 2013 season to draw some viewers back in to open wheel racing.
[h/t: Sports Media Watch]