Is the tide turning when it comes to NASCAR ratings? It might be too early to tell and it depends on what you look at but the numbers from the Daytona 500 at least seems like positive start for NASCAR over the consistently lower ratings of 2018.
Fox saw a 5.5 overnight rating for the 2019 Daytona 500, which was won by Denny Hamlin and was the highest rated event over the weekend (NBA All-Star Game got a 5.0). Fox’s overnight rating was up by eight percent over last year’s race (5.1), continuing a run of viewership gains over the 2018 season. The rain shortened Advance Auto Parts Clash last weekend had a three percent increase in overnight ratings compared to 2018.
According to Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp, that 5.5 number has a couple caveats. For one thing, while 2019 was higher than 2018, this year’s race was still a full percentage point below the 2017 race (6.5). In addition, 2018’s number may have been lower due to having the Winter Olympics as direct competition. SBD’s Adam Stern elaborated on the numbers, showing that at its peak, the race got a 6.3 overnight rating and four of the five top rated markets consisted of cities where NASCAR launched local ad campaigns during non-NASCAR programming for the 2019 season.
This year’s race also may have been helped by the multiple crashes toward the end of the race. With two red flag periods delaying the race, as long as Fox maintained viewership during those periods and not hurt their viewership average, they likely got a boost once the race moved into the 7 PM hour in the Eastern time zone.
So while NASCAR is probably going to take any viewership gain over last season as a win, it’s probably best to see how the next few races fare before declaring that 2018 was “rock bottom” in terms of viewership and 2019 is the beginning of an upward trend.