Here’s fascinating news from the auto racing world. For the first time in a decade, the Indy 500 outrated NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend according to our friend Paulsen at Sports Media Watch.
Earlier this week, we shared the news that the Indy 500 drew its best rating and viewership since 2011 this year for Juan Montoya’s victory. While the numbers were still near historic lows, it at least represented an upswing that went against recent trends. For NASCAR, ratings unfortunately are still going the wrong direction.
Indy scored a 4.1 national rating while the NASCAR race from Charlotte could only muster a 3.8. It’s the first time since 2005 that the Indy 500 outrated the Coke 600 barring 2009 when the NASCAR race was delayed until Monday.
To show how deep auto racing’s television malaise has gotten, the last time this occurred in 2005, Indy had a 6.5 rating and NASCAR had a 6.1. Combined, it represents a 37% decline in the last decade. As a caveat, both races drew approximately the same audiences at 6.4 million viewers with NASCAR having a minute advantage according to SMW (6.41 vs 6.39 mil) by airing in primetime.
But in more worrying news for NASCAR, the Coke 600 on Sunday represented a low point not just for the individual race, but for the last decade and a half of coverage on Fox. The 3.8 rating is the fourth lowest on the network for a Sunday race since 2001. That’s especially troubling considering the 600 is one of NASCAR’s premier races on the entire calendar.
While these numbers aren’t exactly a sign that IndyCar is going to overtake NASCAR on the national scene once again like in the days of Foyt and Andretti, it just adds to the avalanche of discouraging news for stock car racing on television. IndyCar, at least through the 500, may finally be turning the corner and creeping forward in television viewership. Even after years of decline, NASCAR still may not have bottomed out just yet.