The 59th running of the Daytona 500 saw the overnight rating and viewership up slightly. However, Sunday’s race television numbers are toward the bottom historically.
Bringing in the viewers each and every week has been one of NASCAR’s issues in recent years. Fox’s broadcast saw a slightly higher overnight rating and viewership bump but the overall rating was lower than 2016.
This year’s race pulled in a 6.5 overnight rating, which is seven percent higher than last year’s 6.1 overnight rating. Kurt Busch’s first Daytona 500 win saw 11.9 million viewers vs. 11.4 million last year. Yet Sunday’s race and last year’s Daytona 500 each had a 6.6 rating. This rating is only higher than 2014’s 5.6 rating and 9.3 million viewers dating back to 1997.
These ratings are both encouraging and disappointing. NASCAR’s new rules, especially the stage lengths, were implemented to make the races more interesting. However, the rating didn’t rise at all and only 500,000 more viewers tune in compared to last year’s Daytona 500. At the same time, viewership and overnight ratings are trending upward and that’s encouraging on some level. NASCAR needs to keep focused on improving the ratings even more as it attempts to recover some of the mojo from its heyday: like in 2006 when 19.4 million people tuned into the Daytona 500.
Sunday’s race saw a limited field by the end of the race. If more cars were still in the race, it’s possible viewership could have been even better. However, stars like Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson were knocked out of the race early on. As a result, these drivers’ fans may have tuned out of the race early on, which can affect total viewership.
It’s been a couple of disappointing years of Daytona 500 ratings. NASCAR should look to possibly run the race at night or make some kind of change moving forward. If they do move it to night time, then NASCAR needs to either start the season earlier or a week earlier so the race doesn’t conflict wthe ihe Oscars.
All in all, NASCAR has its work cut out for it. Unlike many tracks throughout the season, Daytona International Speedway has no problem selling out of tickets for this race. But the ratings need to start trending upward. When it’s time for a new television contract with Fox and NBC, these networks may not bid as high as NASCAR wants due to lower television ratings.