NASCAR midseason report
NASCAR first-half highlights
Where were the young guns? Aside from Austin Dillon and Joey Logano each winning one race this year, the young drivers that NASCAR has marketed most heavily as the next generation have yet to break through to Victory Lane this season. The sport’s insiders will all agree that this has been a major disappointment, and marketing efforts by the drivers’ teams and the sport overall will be hampered until they start winning.
Diving into the numbers: Fox Sports couldn’t halt its overall ratings drop in NASCAR, though the network says there are still several positives to take away from its half of the season. Fox said it averaged 2.54 million viewers for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races on FS1, and those on the Fox broadcast channel averaged 4.859 million viewers. Fox said that during the first and second quarters of 2018, that number beat heavily touted individual NBA games on ABC and NHL games on NBC. Fox said its streaming viewership for Cup Series races was up 33 percent, from an average of 13,908 viewers on Fox Sports Go to 18,503.
Sponsor coming and goings: Lowe’s announced it is ending its longtime deal with Hendrick Motorsports after 2018, while series title sponsor Monster Energy extended its entitlement through 2019. Sponsors new to the sport or who increased their spending during the first half included Busch Beer, John Deere, Wyndham Hotel Group, Hertz, Hooters and Click n’ Close.
What to watch in the second half
Track projects: Three tracks owned by International Speedway Corp. will wrap up renovations: ISM Raceway’s $178 million makeover, Richmond Raceway’s $30 million infield restoration, and Darlington Raceway’s $7 million grandstand touch-up.
Rules package: NASCAR experimented with a race package at this year’s All-Star Race designed to slow cars down and bunch them for closer racing. Now the sport is considering similar moves in actual points races next season. The goal is more thrilling racing, but some drivers have questioned whether this is the right way.
Can ratings come back? Last year, the back half of NASCAR’s season on NBC performed better than Fox’s from a year-over-year perspective. Insiders are certainly hoping that’s the case again this year so they can show some momentum to the market heading into 2019.
New playoff tracks: Las Vegas Motor Speedway will serve as the season’s playoff opener by virtue of gaining a date that previously was held by New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Richmond also has joined the playoff schedule with its fall race, providing another feather in the cap to go with its renovations. And Charlotte Motor Speedway will host a playoff race on its “roval” course for the first time, using its infield road course and part of its oval course for the race.