NASCAR News

Third season with NASCAR and FOX sees more success

June 26, 2003

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Last Sunday, the third NASCAR on FOX season came to an end at Infineon Raceway. The twisty road course through the wine country of Napa Valley provides perhaps the perfect contrast to the ovals and tri-ovals that typify tracks in the southeast, and in a way demonstrates just how national NASCAR has become.

Despite having three races negatively impacted by America diverting its attention to Operation Iraqi Freedom and having a major race (Coca Cola 600) cut in half due to rain, NASCAR on FOX posted a remarkable 5.8 household rating and 14 share, placing it even with last year and 2001 (5.8). Of all the sports directly impacted by the war in Iraq, NASCAR is the only one that didn’t show a ratings decline for the year. While NASCAR’s regular-season average is flat, the NCAA Tournament dropped -23% on CBS, the NHL regular season was down -21% and the NBA regular season was down -10% on ABC, and PGA golf is down -6% to date. This season’s rating is based on a fast national for Sunday’s race provided by Nielsen Media Research.

“NASCAR continues to be an amazing television phenomenon,” said FOX Sports president Ed Goren. “It’s clearly the strongest, most consistent televised sport in both ratings and demographics from February through June. NASCAR’s ability to withstand obstacles that clearly siphoned viewers from many spring sports events is an outstanding accomplishment.”

Ratings for NASCAR Winston Cup racing on FOX have also grown 16% compared to the first half of 2000, the year before NASCAR came to the network. That year, Winston Cup races broadcast nationally on network television in the season’s first half averaged a 5.0 HH rating. No other sport can boast the same growth, and only the NFL boasts better national regular-season ratings.

To demonstrate the war’s impact on viewership, note that all four regular-season races televised prior to the outbreak of war (Rockingham, Las Vegas, Atlanta & Darlington) posted year-to-year increases, as did the network’s final three races in June (Pocono, Michigan & Sears Point). The 4.8 HH rating garnered by Sunday’s race from Sears Point was the event’s best rating ever (compared to a 4.5 posted in ’01 & ’02). Races most impacted by the war were Bristol, Texas and Talladega.

Additional NASCAR on FOX ratings highlights:

  • In 1995, NBA regular season ratings led NASCAR’s by 4% (5.1 vs. 4.9). This year, the NASCAR beat the NBA by 123% (2.6 vs. 5.8), the biggest gap ever between the two sports.

  • Three FOX NASCAR races this year outdrew the 2003 NBA Finals' 6-game average of 6.5/12: Daytona (9.8/21), Las Vegas (6.9/15), and Rockingham (6.7/16).

  • NASCAR has developed from a regional passion into a national phenomenon. According to Nielsen data through the end of April (the most recent available for this analysis), FOX’s NASCAR regular season beat the NBA regular season in every region of the country. In addition to a huge +140% edge in the South (7.2 vs. 3.0), NASCAR also beats the NBA by +92% in the Northeast (4.8 vs. 2.5); an incredible +279% in the East Central region (9.1 vs. 2.4); +235% in the West Central (5.7 vs. 1.7); and +3% on the West Coast (3.5 vs. 3.4). Markets in the “East Central” region include Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. Markets in the “West Central” region include Chicago, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee.

  • NASCAR on FOX is by far the No. 1 late winter/spring package in sports. Its 5.8 average rating beat not only the NBA regular-season (2.6), but also topped broadcast coverage of the NBA Playoffs (4.8), NCAA Tournament (5.0), PGA golf (3.3/all networks), Arena Football League (1.1), NHL regular season (1.1) and Stanley Cup Playoffs (1.3) and Finals (2.9).

  • Compared to other sports in its ratings neighborhood, NASCAR on FOX holds distinct advantages with regard to key demographics. NASCAR on FOX in ’03 posted a 3.7 for Men 18-34, +61% over the NBA (2.3) and +3% better than the first eight days of the NCAA Tournament (3.6). Winston Cup racing on FOX recorded a 4.9 rating for Men 18-49, +123% better than the NBA regular season (2.2) and 40% higher than the NCAA Tournament through the Elite 8 (3.5).

  • NASCAR also continues to develop its appeal among upscale viewers. Based on Nielsen data through April, NASCAR’s average rating of 5.6 in homes earning $75,000+ is +124% better than the NBA’s 2.5 rating in those homes. In Homes earning $50,000+ that also have children under 18, NASCAR on FOX beats the NBA on ABC by +110% (6.5 vs. 3.1).

--Fox news release--

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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