The first season without Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving the No. 88 car isn’t starting off too well for NASCAR’s television numbers.
The Daytona 500 had fewer than 10 million viewers for the second time since 1985 and the first time since then for a race that wasn’t delayed by rain. Per ShowBuzz Daily, Sunday’s race at Atlanta drew 5.6 million viewers, down 15 percent from just a year ago.
It’s imperative to note that Sunday’s race at Atlanta was delayed by rain and didn’t start until approximately 3:30 p.m. ET. But that’s 3:30 p.m. ET start is the scheduled start time for each of the next three Cup Series races and fits with the idea that more people are watching their televisions in the late afternoon and early evening on Sundays.
Kevin Harvick’s win ended right as primetime began on the east coast. It’s fair to assume some casual viewers who had their televisions on tuned in to see the end of the race just because it was on.
And there’s this as well from Sports Media Watch that shows just how far NASCAR television ratings have fallen in recent years.
In addition, ratings and viewership were the lowest for the second Cup Series race of the season in at least 20 years. The second race has historically been NASCAR’s strongest draw outside of Daytona. It exceeded ten million viewers as recently as 2011 (Phoenix: 5.9, 10.3M). A decade ago, it managed a 6.2 and 10.9 million for rainout coverage opposite the Academy Awards.
Austin Dillon’s Daytona 500 win had approximately 9.3 million people watching. That’s a number comparable to Junior’s final Daytona 500 win in 2014, when he won a 500 that was heavily delayed by rain. That race had a six-hour rain delay. Sunday’s race at Atlanta was delayed 90 minutes or so from its originally-scheduled start time.
Nearly 12 million people watched the 2017 Daytona 500, which started just a bit earlier than the 2018 race. In percentage terms, the year-over-year drop is more than 20 percent and the 2018 race is got the lowest-ever ratings for a Daytona 500. Ratings are determined based on what percentage of televisions in use are tuned in.
Before that 2014 Daytona 500, Bill Elliott’s Daytona 500 victory in 1985 was the most recent race with fewer than 10 million viewers. The 2006 Daytona 500 remains the most-watched 500 with just less than 19.5 million people tuning in to see Jimmie Johnson’s first 500 win.
– – – – – – –