INDIANAPOLIS — The results are in and the viewership for the NTT IndyCar Series’ race on the street of Nashville last weekend was about everything the series could have hoped for. According to Adam Stern of the SBJ, the series had an audience of 1.212 million which equates out to the biggest TV audience for the series on cable in over 23 years.
Granted, I know some may say, well the Indy 500 far outdraws that, but this is on NBCSN, not NBC. The previous best race on cable came back in 2016 at Mid-Ohio. By the way, the Indy 500’s rating and viewership was the best since the 2016 Indy 500 which happened to be the 100th Running.
So, this is huge news and big for both sides as they announced last month on a multi-year contract extension to keep the series on NBC Sports for the foreseeable future.
With that said, there are a couple of factors here for this rating. One we can’t ignore is the lead in from the NASCAR race prior since the Go Bowling at The Glen was directly before the INDYCAR race on the same channel. Don’t think for a second that this factor isn’t relevant.
Another is due to the race itself having such high anticipation around it. Since this race was announced, everyone had high hopes for a race in downtown Nashville. Other than the Indy 500, this was next in line for the buzz factor. They promoted this race right and it showed.
A sold out crowd attended with the biggest audience since 1998 watching on TV with the largest field of cars in a race outside of the Indy 500 since 2013. There’s not a single negative you can say about that. Yes, the racing on track was messy but everything else around it was a home run.
I’ve been saying and banging this drum for years, but you can’t deny that this is a series on the rise. When almost every other major sport around the globe is seeing attendance and viewership decline, INDYCAR’s is still rising. NBC Sports execs said on a conference call that they notice that and knew how valuable it was to keep the series past their initial contract.
I know some may say “well NASCAR gets a bigger rating still” and that ” the NFL may be dropping but their numbers are well in the millions,” and I say that’s fine and that’s a good point, but I also point to who says that their drop and INDYCAR’s gain don’t eventually even out?
People want to go to events that look like a great time. That’s a fact. You get a FOMO factor if you’re not there. INDYCAR can cater to all ages. NASCAR races may have good viewers but it doesn’t look good to see a half capacity race. They acknowledged that too.
INDYCAR on the flipside only wants to go where they’re wanted. They don’t want to have really much more venues to race at than they have now. They want to be desired. Why go to race just to go there? Why add races to a schedule just to add them? If you want on the schedule, you better bring it.
I mean just look at the races they have at this moment and the pomp and circumstance around them. When you go to these races you just feel it. It’s hard to describe but when you step foot on the grounds for most INDYCAR races now, you know you’re at something big.
They honestly truly feel like big events and when you’re there. You can literally feel it in your veins. From the goosebumps and hairs on your neck perked up, you know you’re at something special when you attend. It’s now longer just another race on the schedule anymore. They truly feel like what I’d describe as a playoff atmosphere, every. single. race.
TV has done a great job of capturing that too and it’s leading more people to these races the next year as a result.
I mean St. Pete is always packed with a great energetic crowd. So is World Wide Technology Raceway. I would say other than Nashville last weekend, Gateway has always felt like the second best atmosphere outside of Indy.
Road America and Mid-Ohio called and would like a word. They’re always packed and fun too. Barber has always been a blast with a large crowd. Belle Isle is rising. Portland and Laguna Seca are back. Long Beach and Indy go without having to say much more.
Almost every race has packed grandstands. They’re all now growing in TV viewership too.
You are starting to see a theme going on here. Why go to a track with empty seats? INDYCAR has found a niche and it’s one that folks actually want to go to these races and once they do, they’re hooked.
The tracks are getting more and more attended and there’s no signs of that slowing down. The only way they stop growing is due to selling out. TV keeps picking up steam more and more too.
They’re all witnessing a growing car count that is already going to be higher next year than this. We’re soon going to be pushing 30+ full time cars in the very near future.
Where this is now is INDYCAR is starting a boom like NASCAR had in the 90’s. If you build it, they’ll come. The problem for them was, they grew but couldn’t sustain it and lost focus on what got them there. INDYCAR has the right leaders in place to lead the boom down the right path to sustain this. This may be big numbers but I still have a feeling that it’s only going to rise further still.