NASCAR’s Daytona 500 ratings point to a worrying trend

Ratings for the 2022 Daytona 500 came out Wednesday morning and overall are slightly lower than expected, but there is a more concerning trend within the audience.

How do the ratings for this event compare to previous years and what is the worrying trend?

Daytona 500 Ratings Compared to Previous Years

Nigel Cook/News-Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2022 Daytona 500 averaged 8.868 million viewers over the course of the event. Viewership was up from the last two events, but both were delayed due to weekend weather conditions.

The last non-delayed Daytona 500 dates back to 2019 and averaged 9.170 million viewers. While the television landscape is different from 2019, it’s not fantastic to see the numbers drop.

Two weeks ago, the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum was a stunning success and NASCAR could have continued its momentum in the “Super Bowl” of racing last weekend.

However, these numbers are not fantastic given the hype surrounding the event. It was the first race for the NextGen car and many owners, such as Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather and Pitbull had entries in the race.

There was a time in the early 2000s when less than 15 million viewers for The Great American Race would be considered concerning. Dating back to the 1980s, NASCAR hasn’t struggled with odds below 10 million.

Last weekend, NASCAR took on the Olympics, which could have had an effect on the total viewership of the race. This was not a problem in 2019 and could explain the drop in viewership.

Either way, NASCAR probably wanted to see more than the current number of viewers.

Related: NASCAR Today: TV Schedule, Race Highlights & Standings

What is the biggest concern the Daytona 500 has shown for NASCAR?

NASCAR: Daytona 500
John David Mercer – USA TODAY Sports

Total viewership shouldn’t be the most concerning factor for NASCAR out of all that was provided from this weekend. The 18-49 age bracket should be the biggest problem.

The Daytona 500 had 8.868 million viewers, but only 1.948 million viewers were in the 18-49 demographic. Compared to other sports, like the NBA All-Star Game, it’s not good.

The NBA All-Star Game was on TV after the race and had no effect on the event. Of the 5.432 million viewers, there were 2.677 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic.

That means the NBA had three million fewer viewers, but about 725,000 more viewers in their target demographic. It’s not fantastic for NASCAR in this area.

If you compare the 18-49 demographic of the 2019 Daytona 500 to this year’s ratings, that will also show a more widespread drop than the overall ratings.

Compared to 2019, this year’s Daytona 500 was down almost 16% in this demographic. It’s worrying to see the sport struggle to maintain a younger audience when others don’t struggle as much and can grow.

There were times last season when Formula 1 edged out NASCAR with younger audiences, even though it wasn’t seen on as much US TV.

The likelihood of Formula 1 challenging NASCAR as the top sport in America is growing year by year. Based on the younger audience figures, the future of Formula 1 looks brighter at the moment.

Related: Daytona 500 Winners, Results & Facts

What can NASCAR do to address these issues?

Daytona 500
Nigel Cook/News-Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK

There are a few ideas that could increase viewership in key areas. However, NASCAR should exercise faith and trust the networks to do their job.

One of the best ways is to increase marketing. There isn’t a big NASCAR driver market outside of Bubba Wallace. Others like Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin might be notable, but that’s it.

If someone were to ask a casual sports fan who doesn’t watch NASCAR to name a driver in the sport, they would most likely say one of the former drivers or Wallace.

There must be improvement in this area. Most sports fans probably don’t know many, if any, NASCAR drivers, while other sports have many notable players who can be easily named.

Another major area that needs improvement is event-related names. The NBA All-Star Game had names like DJ Khaled and Machine Gun Kelly. The Daytona 500 had Luke Combs.

NASCAR needs to move away from country music performances and stick strictly to better-known artists. While country fans might be NASCAR’s target audience, young people love pop music and hip hop.

It’s not just on-track action that can win over viewers. People would rather tune in to see current, adrenaline-pumping hot artists than slow-paced country songs that appeal to a smaller audience of young Americans.

That’s not to say that changing music would automatically improve ratings. He says if you connect more well-known artists and events to NASCAR, the hype for the sport will increase over time.

NASCAR can fix the 18-49 demographics, but they need to make some changes. No young adult wants to watch commercials every 10 laps and bad coverage works when Formula 1 has brilliant shows.

There’s work to be done all around and nothing says NASCAR is dying, but there are concerns that need to be addressed with the current viewing landscape.

Related: NASCAR must impose sanctions on Team Penske and RFK Racing

About Anne Wurtsbach

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