Based on fast national numbers provided by Nielsen Media Research and ESPN, the 2012 race won by Dario Franchitti delivered a 4.34 final household rating and 6,857,100 viewers – the race's best number since 2008. The rating is an 8 percent increase among households (4.34 vs. 4.03) from last year's race. Fast National ratings are not the absolute final rating, but they give an indication. They are more accurate than the overnight ratings that come out first.
05/28/12 Added the TV ratings for the Indy 500 for the CART years below the IRL/IndyCar charts so everyone understands just how much damage Tony George did to the sport by creating the IRL. He certainly destroyed a good thing. It will be his legacy.
05/28/12 Though down only slightly from last year, the 2012 Indianapolis 500 earned one of the lowest overnights ever for the event. The IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 drew a 4.1 overnight rating on ABC Sunday afternoon, down 5% from last year (4.3), but up a tick from 2010 (4.0).
The 4.1 overnight is the second-lowest for the Indy 500 since the race began airing live in 1986. As recently as 2008, the race drew a 5.1 overnight.
Though the race itself was down from last year, the prerace portion of ABC’s coverage earned a 1.9 overnight — up 46%.
Note: In the CART years (before Tony George destroyed it all) the ratings ranged as high as 13.8
CART Years TV Ratings:
1979: 13.5/24 Share (Share is % of households watching the race)
1980: 13.8/27 Share
1981: 12.8/24 Share
1982: 12.3/25 Share
1983: 14.1/27 Share
1984: 12.9/25 Share
1985: 9.7/18 Share
1986: 8.8/31 Share
1987: 11.0/36 Share (36% of all households in the USA watch the Indy 500)
1989: 7.8/28 Share
1991: 8.0/27 Share
1992: 9.8/31 Share
1993: 9.3/31 Share
1994: 9.1/31 Share
1995: 9.4/26 Share (In CART's last year over 1/4 of all USA households were tuned in)
1996: The IRL takes over and ratings plummet to 6.6 and keep dropping
05/28/12 The overnight rating for Sunday's Indy 500 race on ABC was a 4.1, down from the 4.3 from last year but up from the 4.0 in 2010.