Race Weekend Central

Dollars & Sense: Will NASCAR Ratings Rise Following an Off Weekend?

In comparison to the 2011 season, NASCAR’s Nielsen ratings have been down during every Sprint Cup event this season with the exception of the March 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Even with the excitement surrounding Texas Motor Speedway’s inaugural night race, the Samsung Mobile 500 had the lowest television rating of the first eight races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule in 2011. Prior to that night race at TMS last spring, they were always scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“We’ll be racing under the lights this weekend,” said Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Burger King Toyota Camry. “Who doesn’t love a night race? They’re so cool. The cars take on a whole new look when the lights shine down and the fans come alive when the sun goes down.”

Like last season’s night race, the Sunday afternoon spring races weren’t a huge hit with the Nielsens. However, the event received a larger viewing audience on occasion than the short tracks managed to pull in. (Tuesday, Frontstretch writer Mike Neff wrote about the flawed Nielsen sampling for short track races in his Full Throttle column.)

See also
Full Throttle: Just Who Is Watching Martinsville?

During the 2012 season, the most recent three races have been watched by less people than the first three events that started off the year. But what is different this season from years past is diehard NASCAR fans didn’t have any televised races to watch during the preceding week.

After a long break from any televised NASCAR racing, most fans should be ready for NASCAR to arrive at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR could get lucky and bounce back from this lull. Thus sparking more interest leading into the summer.

Easter weekend was without racing, however it was a welcomed break for many fans and their families. And it had to have been great for the people that work on the race teams too. But not so much for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“The races can’t come fast enough for our team right now because we are ready,” Earnhardt had said in a press conference at Martinsville. “We are really liking being at the track and being on the track, making laps and working.”

With Earnhardt’s third-place finish in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500, his desire to get to the track is matching that of his legions of fans that wish to cheer him into victory lane and end a 136-race winless streak.

Due to the advent of DVR, fans must agree with Earnhardt’s excitement for NASCAR racing to come sooner rather than later. Viewers can watch the race whenever they have time, if too busy to watch it live. As a driver or anybody else in the sport, being at the track is what they are getting paid the big bucks to do anyway. Don’t they get a day or two off after the race? Not to mention a couple months during the holidays.

The average fan gets paid far less money than a top driver earns in one race and puts in many more hours of work during the year.

What other sport shuts down during the season and deprives the fans from being able to view it? No other sport does that – save for NASCAR.

NASCAR should take notice that professional sports don’t need to send all the competitors home for the holidays. The viewers still want to watch their team compete.

“It’s great to go back racing again after the week off,” according to David Ragan, driver of the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Scorpion Truck Bed Liners Ford Fusion. “It was great to have some downtime and spend time with family. I got to go out to the Masters in Augusta one day last week and that was a great time.

“Some friends of ours always get tickets every year, but typically we’re always racing, coming off a race weekend and getting ready for another race the following weekend. But we had the off-weekend this year, so this was the first time I had some downtime to be able to do some of the things that normal people get to do.”

It would make sense that if the sanctioning body understood the fans’ viewing habits and how to schedule races similar to the way other sports schedule, NASCAR would be able to get a sweeter deal when negotiating the next television contract.

The Sprint Cup Series has a few off-weekends during the season; all professional athletes need time to rest. Sprint Cup drivers would have less to complain about if they didn’t also spend their free time taking up seats in the NASCAR Nationwide Series or going off to the local dirt tracks to compete.

They could spend that extra time with their families. Then the season wouldn’t seem so long. They would be excited to get back racing, as they are excited this week.

In 2011, a fan’s need for speed could’ve been quenched with the Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway. This year the desire for racing is burning, due to the drama in the final laps of the Sprint Cup race at Martinsville two weeks ago, in what feels like an eternity to some.

“I’m jacked up going to Texas and I cannot wait,” said Greg Biffle, current points leader and driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Filtrete Ford Fusion.

“Everyone is fresh, recharged and ready to go to Texas,” according to Biffle’s crew chief Matt Puccia.

This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, the driver, teams and fans alike will finally get their wish and get back to racing once more.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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