Clash ratings show weeknight races may not be wise for NASCAR’s future

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — NASCAR has done a lot of experimenting over the past 11 months. From doubleheaders, to no practice, to no qualifying, to weeknight races, no stone has been left unturned as the sport continues to adapt for their future that unfortunately is being blanketed by COVID at the moment.

Well, as they’ve had some data and time to think about things, one aspect that may get moved back to the backburner for the future are actually weeknight events. Everything else has worked but for whatever reason, weeknight races haven’t been a hit like initially expected.

This was something that fans have been wanting for a while. A weeknight race is unique and brings things back to their roots. You can almost certainly go to one of your local short tracks around this nation and almost easily find a weeknight event at them.

Well, NASCAR heard you and held four weeknight points paying races a year ago. They also moved the All-Star race to a weeknight and held it at Bristol.

In total, there were five weeknight races between the return from COVID in May until Kansas in late July. None though were particularly high rated. That was a shame. While they drew decent numbers, I was disappointed in the sense that I figured that they’d be higher than what was shown.

Yes, none were on network TV and yes they had a ton of competition as other sports were starting to resume playing, but for an experiment that they had, I didn’t necessarily feel good about those ratings either. Neither did NASCAR.

The biggest proof was the lack of weeknight races from the 2021 schedule. After all, there were radical changes in terms of scheduling between 2020 and 2021. We have a dirt race this year. They’ll go to seven road courses. The Brickyard was moved to the road course. Gone are Kentucky and Chicagoland. Gone is a second race at Michigan and Dover. All these huge changes and none of which involves a weeknight race.

That’s telling.

But, one of the previously scheduled races though for a weeknight was the Busch Clash. That was the first weeknight race scheduled a year ago. Prior to COVID being a thing, NASCAR and Daytona announced radical changes to Speedweeks. The Clash would be moved from the oval to the 3.61 mile road course and run on a Tuesday night.

While the road course experiment actually worked, the weeknight option didn’t. Per Adam Stern at SBJ, Fox Sports 1 saw 1.577 million viewers for Tuesday night’s race. That’s down almost 1 million people as 2.455 million tuned into the 2020 Busch Clash that was run on a Sunday afternoon.

Adam Stern on Twitter: “.@FS1 earned 1.577 million viewers for Tuesday night’s Busch Clash, down from 2.455 million for last year’s race, though that was run on a Sunday when NASCAR typically rates better. ➖ Tuesday’s race was FS1’s best audience since Iowa-Wisconsin college football game in December.” / Twitter

I don’t think the move to the road course caused 1 million people to ignore the race. I do think the move to a weeknight did.

That’s disappointing because I felt like a weeknight Clash was fun. It to me had an eager yet unique presence and anticipation feel to it. With these ratings mixed with last year’s weeknight ratings, I don’t see how NASCAR would continue on with this experiment for 2022 and beyond.

It doesn’t make sense when you lose so many viewers. After all, viewers on TV is where you’re money is at right now and viewers going down as much as they did for a weeknight race, I don’t see TV nor the tracks willing to take that risk anymore.

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