NASCAR bests F1 by nearly 1 million viewers Sunday, an inside look at the TV numbers

Rejoice NASCAR fans. Despite all the chatter and fear that Formula One was taking over the motorsports headlines here in the United States, the TV numbers are in according to SBJ’s Adam Stern. He put out the numbers on Tuesday morning and they are clearly showing that NASCAR is still the top dog in racing here on the homeland.

While I get some may read that first paragraph and come at me with pitch forks and knives, lets dive deeper. I’ll break this down to where it’s actually good for both sides.

All week and even throughout the weekend the attention was being debated between the two racing series. Was F1 coming to steal NASCAR’s thunder? Was the pendulum swinging the other way?

I mean, look at the stands at both Texas and Kansas and then look at all the buzz around COTA and you could visually see a large disparity between the two. It was obvious.

COTA was the place to be. Kansas, well it lacked the buzz. The media and fan attention made us believe that F1 was going to far outdraw NASCAR last weekend.

This was a major story and one could say THE story overall in the motorsports world. Everyone was wondering if the Netflix series on F1 was a large contributor to their rise here in America and why they were doing everything right and how was NASCAR doing everything wrong?

Was NASCAR going to really let F1 come onto their turf and beat them up without much resistance? Was this really happening?

I think the Netflix series is a large part as to why F1 is growing. You can’t deny the fact that they truly are coming on strong. It’s happening. Their viewership was the largest for the United States Grand Prix ever since its been held at COTA.

That’s a fact.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – OCTOBER 24: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 24, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

But, in looking at the TV numbers for both COTA and Kansas, you’d see NASCAR still trumps F1 in that category. NASCAR’s mic drop moment was Tuesday morning. NASCAR had nearly 1-million more viewers tuned in that F1 and they two went directly head-to-head against one another.

They won. They didn’t need to do anything. The numbers spoke for themselves.

2.105-million people watched the Hollywood Casino 400 on NBCSN. 1.225-million watched the F1 race on network ABC. NASCAR wasn’t on network TV and outdrew F1 who was by 900k.


Even the Xfinity race on NBC from Saturday outdrew the F1 race by almost 100k.


Now, lets dig deeper. This is where NASCAR can’t rest on their laurels.

In saying these facts, you can make a case that F1 still took 400k fans from NASCAR though. That’s also a fact. In 2020, NASCAR ran at Kansas and had 2.511 million people tune in. The last time F1 raced in America was 2019 and they had 861k watch on TV.

Granted, you’re comparing a 2020 NASCAR race to a 2019 F1 race and have one with a pandemic and another without. You have NASCAR on NBC then and NBCSN now. But, the F1 race from 2019 to 2021 gained 400k in viewership while the NASCAR race from 2020 to 2021 lost 400k.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a fluke.

Plus, F1 outdrew NASCAR in the 18-49 demographic 374k to 354k. That’s 20k more people between that crucial age grouping tuning into F1 Sunday over NASCAR. That’s also telling in the sense that while NASCAR is top dog now, F1 is coming and cutting into NASCAR via the younger crowd in their path.

I mean think about it. The crowd they’re getting is that Netflix generation. It’s proving that it’s working. It’s compelling. It’s a great series. It’s turning heads and making F1 seem more relatable.

Which is also why NASCAR is making the decisions that they’ve been making lately too. They’re trying to capture the next generation. The problem is, in the process, some folks that are part of the generation that has cared about NASCAR for decades is getting pissed off.

The aero package, the number placement, stages, playoffs, the schedule, etc. This new NASCAR isn’t what your dad or grandpa grew up on. They’re trying to gain the younger crowd back while keeping as many of the old guard around as they can.

That’s the dilemma that NASCAR is facing because while on the surface it shows that they’re by leaps and bounds the top dog in the motorsports world here in America and that even with all the attention and buzz surrounding F1 at the moment, they still outdrew them by almost 1 million people, if you go below the surface you’d see that NASCAR’s numbers are dropping in favor of F1.

Granted, if NASCAR was on NBC, would that number be even higher? After years of numbers dropping race after race in comparison to the year prior, they’ve not only evened out, they’re starting to go back up again. So that’s a plus.

But, you can’t ignore the fact that F1 is coming either. Just how far can F1 rise and how long can they sustain it?

I also give a nod to INDYCAR and NBC Sports too because F1 with all this buzz and being on network TV, still had numbers comparable if not lower than most INDYCAR races on network TV too.

The argument is F1 comes to America once a year compared to 38 NASCAR weekends and 18 INDYCAR. Yes, INDYCAR gets similar numbers or even higher when they’re on NBC but they also drop when going head-to-head on NBC against the CBS/FOX NFL window.

ABC getting over 1 million people to watch a race during the Fall is a big number but how much of that is that this race is once a year compared to if they had 10+? I have a feeling if F1 raced here double digit times a season, there’s no way 1 million people tune into last Sunday’s race.

So, while everything is subjective, you can’t ignore that NASCAR is still on top of the mountain but F1 is climbing up while NASCAR is teetering on the climb back down or remaining at the peak.

The decisions that both series makes in the coming years will dictate where this goes because I don’t think there’s been as important seasons for each series as there is now. F1 has the ability to make this great as NASCAR did in the 90’s. The thing is, NASCAR oversaturated their market and wasn’t able to sustain the success.

Can F1?

NASCAR’s side now is that they’re rising in popularity now too but can they grow in this younger demographic that’s clearly watching elsewhere? Their decisions are going to be key moving forward on which way this goes.

The thing is, NASCAR has to make their races events again and what I mean by that is, having butts in seats. If you watched COTA and Kansas and were a person between the ages 18-49, COTA is clearly the place you want to go to for 2022. It was fun. It was electric. It was packed.

Kansas gave you no reason to want to go with plenty of empty seats. Fans want to go where it’s packed and fun. That’s why Kansas now has to figure out how to get people back.

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