Martinsville TV ratings show why NASCAR made a wise move to go back to more Sunday afternoon races

The ratings for last Saturday night’s Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 are in. While you can take these either direction, my main takeaway from this is that NASCAR was wise in the fact that they’ve moved more and more races back to Sunday afternoon’s.

According to Adam Stern of SBJ, the Cup Series race on FS1 earned a 1.10 rating which equated out to 1.885-million viewers.

Not bad. But not great either. The main point from this is, nearly 4 million (3.958-million) people tuned into FOX a week prior for the Richmond race. Saturday night’s Martinsville race was more than half of the amount of people tuning in.

From 3.958-million to 1.8-million. That’s a stark drop.

While some could say a race on FS1 will naturally drop off than one on FOX, you don’t lose 3-million people because of that.

It just further goes to show to what the TV networks are seeing and saying that’s the fact that people aren’t as interested in dropping what they’re doing to watch a race in primetime as they would be on a usual Sunday afternoon. We’ve heard about this for a while now and these numbers prove it.

For the season, as Stern notes, NASCAR is up 17% in their TV numbers over 2021. Up until Saturday night, all the races were run on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s a fundamental shift that NASCAR is working on again and they’re not hiding behind that fact either. Richmond went from a pair of night races annually to half day half night to now all Sunday afternoon’s. Kansas will be a day race against the NFL this Fall. Why Sunday’s and not utilizing Saturday night’s anymore?

“I think from a fan perspective our fans, again, are accustomed to tuning in on Sunday afternoon and seeing NASCAR Cup Series racing. For a fan going out there to the track, to have the biggest event of the weekend on that Sunday afternoon I think gives them something to look forward to and builds anticipation around the weekend.

“I would say a lot of our fans, myself included, are accustomed to turning racing on, NASCAR racing in particular, on Sunday afternoon. I think we all have that habit. Certainly helped us kind of drive the decision to move that there.”

In both 2009 and again in 2010 we had 10 scheduled night races on the schedule. They were at Phoenix, Richmond (x2), Darlington, Charlotte (x2), Daytona, Chicago, Bristol and Atlanta. This year, that number is down to six (Martinsville, Bristol (x2), Charlotte, Darlington and Daytona). Out of those 6, half will take place on a Sunday night at that. That’s down from 8 of 10 in 2010.

Plus, among the past tracks with lights, Phoenix, Richmond and Atlanta doesn’t use theirs anymore for Cup with both visits now being day races. Chicago is also gone.

The shift is clear. Lights are basically a backup plan now for tracks for the event rain pushes them to night to complete. However, they’d prefer not to have to use them and get them all done in a Sunday afternoon window.

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