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NASCAR’s Daytona 500 ratings indicate a worrisome trend

The 2022 Daytona 500 ratings came out Wednesday morning and there was one immediate concerning trend. What is this trend and how can NASCAR fix it over time?

Austin Konenski

The ratings for the 2022 Daytona 500 came out Wednesday morning and overall, it is slightly below predictions, but there’s a more concerning trend happening within viewership.

How did the ratings for this event compare to previous years and what’s the worrisome trend?

Daytona 500 ratings compared to previous years

daytona 500
Nigel Cook/News-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2022 Daytona 500 averaged 8.868 million viewers during the course of the event. The viewership was up from the last two events but both were delayed due to weather over the weekend.

The last non-delayed Daytona 500 was in 2019 and it averaged 9.170 million viewers. While the television landscape is different than 2019, it’s not fantastic to see the numbers down.

Two weeks ago, the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum was an astounding success and NASCAR could have carried the momentum into the “Super Bowl” of racing this past weekend.

However, these numbers are not fantastic considering the hype surrounding the event. It was the first race of the NextGen car and many owners, such as Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather, and Pitbull had entries in the race.

There was a time in the early 2000s that anything less than 15 million viewers for The Great American Race would be considered concerning. Dating back to the 1980s, NASCAR did not struggle with ratings below 10 million.

Last weekend, NASCAR did go up against the Olympics, which might have had an effect on the total viewership of the race. This was not an issue in 2019 and could explain the dip in viewers.

Either way, NASCAR most likely wanted to see more than the current number of viewers.

Related: NASCAR today: TV schedule, race highlights, and rankings

What is the major concern the Daytona 500 showed for NASCAR?

NASCAR: Daytona 500
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The overall number of viewers should not be the most concerning factor for NASCAR out of everything provided from this weekend. The age demographic of 18-49 should be the biggest issue.

The Daytona 500 had 8.868 million viewers, but only 1.948 million viewers were in the 18-49 demographic. Compared to other sports, such as the NBA All-Star Game, that’s not good.

The NBA All-Star Game was on television after the race and had no effect on the event. Out of the 5.432 million viewers, there were 2.677 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic.

This means the NBA had three million fewer viewers but around 725 thousand more viewers in their target demographic. That’s not fantastic for NASCAR in that area.

If you compare the 2019 Daytona 500’s 18-49 demographic to this year’s ratings, it will also show a decline that is more prevalent than the overall ratings.

Compared to 2019, this year’s Daytona 500 was down almost 16% in that demographic. It’s concerning to see the sport struggling to maintain a younger audience while others don’t struggle as much and may grow.

There were times last season when Formula 1 would outpace NASCAR with a younger audience despite not being seen on as many American televisions.

The likelihood of Formula 1 challenging NASCAR as the top sport in America increases by the year. Based on the numbers from younger audiences, the future of Formula 1 seems to be brighter at the moment.

Related: Daytona 500 winners, results, and facts

What can NASCAR do to fix these issues?

daytona 500
Nigel Cook/News-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

There are a few ideas that could increase viewership in key areas. However, NASCAR would need to take some leaps of faith and trust the networks to do their jobs.

One of the best ways is to increase marketing. There is not a great market of NASCAR drivers outside of Bubba Wallace. Others such as Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin might be notable, but that’s all.

If someone were to ask a casual sports fan who does not watch NASCAR to name one driver in the sport, they would most likely say one of the former drivers or Wallace.

There needs to be an improvement in that area. Most sports fans most likely do not know many NASCAR drivers, if any at all, while other sports have many notable players that can be easily named.

Another major area that needs improvement is the names connected to the events. The NBA All-Star Game had names such as DJ Khaled and Machine Gun Kelly. The Daytona 500 had Luke Combs.

NASCAR needs to go away from country music performances and stick strictly to more well-known artists. While country fans might be NASCAR’s targeted audiences, younger people like pop music and hip hop.

It’s not all about on-track action that can gain viewers. People would rather tune in to see current hot artists that give adrenaline than slow-paced country songs that appeal to a lesser audience of younger Americans.

This is not saying that changing music would automatically make ratings better. It says that if you connect more well-known artists and events to NASCAR, the hype for the sport will grow over time.

NASCAR can fix the 18-49 demographic but they need to make some changes. No young adult wants to watch commercials every 10 laps and bad coverage work when Formula 1 provides brilliant broadcasts.

There’s work to do all around and nothing says NASCAR is dying, but there are concerns that need to be addressed with the current landscape of viewers.

Related: NASCAR needs to impose penalties on Team Penske and RFK Racing