Last year NASCAR’s popularity took a hit when a pothole delayed the Daytona 500 and several key races went head-to-head against Winter Olympics events including the United States-Canada gold medal hockey game, the most-watched hockey game since 1980. But the sport’s executives are encouraged by the return of fans this season, with viewership up 19 percent among the valuable 18-34 male demographic.
“It’s been an issue for NASCAR for several years where we’ve been declining in that key demographic, and it’s an important demographic because that’s where some of your new fans are coming from,” said Bill Wanger, executive vice president of programming and research for Fox.
Nevertheless, its numbers for this demographic remain lower than in 2009. Nielsen research shows viewership among males 18-34 averages 641,300, down about 100,000 from 2009.
Part of the increase in viewership undoubtedly has to do with increased competition, Wanger and others said.
Already this season, the 18-34 demographic has seen two of the sport’s most storied races won by drivers in their age group. Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 a day after he turned 20 years old. Regan Smith, 27, won last weekend’s Southern 500 at Darlington.
Of course, 25-year-old Kyle Busch has been prominent in the news from his Cup wins at Bristol and Richmond to his feud with Kevin Harvick. Also, 31-year-old Carl Edwards leads the point standings.
It’s that’s type of action that can lead fans of all ages, particularly younger ones, to view NASCAR, Wanger said.