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Nascar’s return to live racing generates big ratings on Fox

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Nascar’s return to live racing at the weekend generated impressive domestic television ratings, with the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway delivering 6.32 million US viewers on the main Fox broadcast network.

The highly-anticipated race posted a 38 per cent increase over the previous Nascar Cup Series race before the Covid-19 shutdown on March 8, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

Aside from the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, it was the most-watched Nascar race on any network since March 2017. The race also was the the most-watched event at Darlington since 2011 and the most-watched one in the month of May since Talladega in 2016. An additional 40,000 viewers through Fox Sports’ digital platforms.

The top local markets for the race, not surprisingly, were largely within Nascar’s traditional southeastern US stronghold. Two North Carolina cities, Greensboro and Charlotte, led the way, followed by Indianapolis, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida. Fox also generated a strong uptick in younger viewers, with the 18-34 age demographic posting a 47 per cent viewership gain compared to last Nascar race before the pandemic, more than the lift for any other age range.

“Nascar audience showed up early and hung around for a long time yesterday,” tweeted Mike Mulvhill, Fox Sports executive vice president and head of strategy. “The audience at 4pm was the same as it was for the entire race (6.3m). That’s really rare.”

Most notably, it was also the fourth-highest rated sports television program since the Covid-19-enforced shutdown in mid-March, trailing the first two days of the National Football League Draft and the Episode One premiere of ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance.

Nascar has scheduled seven races over 11 days in North and South Carolina this month, with more races planned until the end of June. None will have spectators. The Cup Series returns to Darlington on May 20.

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