With 38 race weekends, NASCAR doesn’t take many breaks in the season, but the NASCAR Cup Series has a week-long break to unofficially indicate the halfway point in the season.
Halfway through, there’s a lot NASCAR will be delighted with on the TV side. Viewership continued to rise steadily; Fox’s half-season averaged 3,696,000 spectators for point races. It’s up 6% from 2021, which is also the highest rate since the last Dale Earnhardt Jr. Cup season in 2017. Sure, the Daytona 500’s uninterrupted presence helps viewership, but it’s more than that. Speaking to Brian Herbst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Media and Production, it’s all about putting the races on at the times that can boost viewership. And you might be a little lucky with the weather.
“The numbers certainly encouraged us,” Herbst said. “I think coming out of the hot gates with Clash at the Coliseum hit 4.3 million viewers and then watching a clean Daytona 500 (in terms of weather) for the first time in a while and back to 9 million viewers in the ‘500, I think when that kind of lift comes out of the gate, There was a fair amount of momentum for those first four or five races on Big Fox. We kind of rode that momentum through the rest of the season.”
“We posted a good number in the Bristol Dirt on Easter Day as well, and that was a big number, especially considering the rain affected this race. But it was also a really solid number in terms of 18-49. This demo peaked a bit in the Bristol Dirt. So outside of the Daytona 500, that young fan base, they watch the Bristol Dirt on Easter Sunday more than any other race than the Daytona 500 during the Fox portion of the season.”
“So I think that’s a lot of that. I think we’ve done a pretty good job working with Fox to improve some of our support events for windows that work better for TV. I think the viewing results kind of prove that.”
Bristol Dirt Racing is an interesting topic. The jury was among the broader fan base on whether or not putting dirt on a track that already had great races was a good thing, but got youngsters watching. In fact, on top of being one of the most-watched Daytona Cup races, the Camping World Truck Series race in Bristol (1.167 million, 317K in 18-49) fared better than the Truck Race in Daytona (1.016 million, 235K in 18-49). ). Dirt track racing may not be traditional, but it is unique, fun and people follow it.
With Jeff Gordon gone, Fox did something unique this season and had a rotating panel of commentators to join Mike Joy and Clint Boyr. Some people did better than others, but the concept kept things fresh every week.
“I thought it was very fun,” Herbst said. “There were some great characters there. I thought the chemistry between Clint and Tony Stewart was great. I thought the analysis by some of the more analytical people like Chad Knaus or Jimmy McMurray really brought a different perspective to the broadcast as well. I found it kind of exciting to tune in every week To see what each guest analyst will offer us. Not to take anything from the three-man cabins we’ve seen in the past.”
As in years past, Fox is passing the torch to NBC for the second half of the Trophy Series and the Xfinity Series season. The NBC season begins at the Nashville Superspeedway, and although this is the second year that NBC has been in Nashville, both NBC and NASCAR like the energy of the Nashville market. It quickly became a popular part of everyone’s schedule.
“The Nashville market itself has improved in terms of its local NASCAR rankings,” Herbst said. “Every one of the last three years. So we’re seeing increased fan interest in NASCAR in Nashville. We obviously had a sale last year at the Nashville Superspeedway, so it feels like a big event, and there’s no more natural promotional link for NASCAR than country music and Nashville.” .”
It will be interesting to see how half of the season on NBC compares to previous years in terms of viewership. With NBCSN closed, NASCAR moves to the USA. While USA is not a sports network, it has a wider distribution than NBCSN and is one of the most popular channels on cable. With other properties seeing an increase in viewership moving from NBCSN to the USA and airing two new reality series during the week, Herbst appears optimistic that viewership will continue on its upward trajectory.
“We’re very excited about it…we’ve seen a spike in a lot of NBC sports properties moving from NBCSN to the USA…based on how well the USA channel is.”
“The other thing I would also like to mention is that we are working closely with the NBC Entertainment Group to run two different shows on the USA during the mid-season on NBC. We have a lifestyle show, a behind-the-scenes show, featuring Austin Dillon and launching on June 23.”
“Then there was a crew that followed all the key drivers all season. The USA show is called The race to the championship It will be launched in September. So these programs will be broadcast during the week, like Thursday night for example, to help tell the story and take the helmets off the drivers. So when you see those characters come to life on the weekend, it’s a familiar face.”
While things aren’t perfect and can certainly be improved, the future is bright and NASCAR should be able to build on what it has so far. Thanks to the next generation car, the level of parity is higher than it has ever been before. There were 12 different winners in the first 16 point races. Eight of these are aged 30 or younger and four are first-time winners. Thanks to victories by Bubba Wallace last year and Daniel Suarez this year, NASCAR has seen its highest viewership for African Americans and Hispanics in the first half of this season since 2015.
Additionally, with initiatives such as Trackhouse Racing’sProject 91“Which will feature Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen, the 24 Hours of Le Mans project next year with Hendrick Motorsports, and the rumored 2023 Chicago street race, it’s an exciting time for NASCAR as they enter the second half of the season.