Halfway Point: NASCAR gaining ground in ratings, setting records on social media

Photo by Getty Images via NASCAR

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

The rumors of NASCAR’s demise are greatly exaggerated and new statistics, provided to Kickin’ the Tires, reveal a dramatic increase in social media and electronic reach by America’s most popular form of auto racing.

Kicking off the season with a photo finish at the Daytona 500 didn’t hurt fans’ impression of what the 2016 season might be like with a new aerodynamic racing package. In fact, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has had more side-by-side racing than any time in recent history and the battles for the lead have been epic.

“If you haven’t caught a NASCAR race lately, you really haven’t seen some of the best racing we’ve had in years,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer. “Starting with photo finishes at the Daytona 500 and in Phoenix – and shattering records for green flag passing for
the lead at several races along the way – we’re delighted here at the midpoint of our seasons that fans are tuning in and engaging across digital and social platforms like never before.”

Much ado is made about TV ratings and viewership is slightly down but not of the doom-and-gloom aspect reported by many in the media. In fact, the July race at Daytona, which was the first in NBC’s 2016 broadcast package, had the highest ratings of any July race at the track since 2011. And television viewing numbers were only down 3-percent overall for the first 18 races compared to 2015.


The second race of the season, which was at Atlanta Motor Speedway, saw a record number of lead changes under green flag conditions. There was also a record number of green flag passes for the lead at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. and at Bristol Motor Speedway, according to NASCAR statistical data. At Phoenix International Raceway, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick slammed into each other from the final turn to the checkered flag with Harvick just edging out Edwards for the win.

One of the things that appears to be pushing NASCAR is a new youth movement, which includes Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano – all are under 30 and all are currently in The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship. Another young driver, 22-year-old Ryan Blaney, is just a couple of positions shy of the coveted 16th position – the final spot in the field to decide who can battle for the series championship in the final 10 races of the season. The youth movement has also proven they aren’t afraid of taking on NASCAR’s veterans like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. At Michigan International Speedway last month, Logano (26 years old), Elliott (20 years old) and Kyle Larson (23 years old) finished 1-2-3 and took the record for the youngest average age for a podium finish in the history of the sport.

With most young people extremely adept on social media platforms, there may be a correlation between the up-and-comers and NASCAR’s Internet visits and social engagement.

The NASCAR.com Web site saw more than 33 million unique visitors over the first 17 races. Across all NASCAR digital platforms, NASCAR Digital Media has registered 507 million page views and 155 million on and off platform video views. Plus, the NASCAR Mobile App and the RaceView App have seen 698,000 download in 2016.

The social media numbers are even more impressive, based on numbers provided by NASCAR. The first 17 races saw a combined gain of 1.1 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat and a variety of other social platforms. That’s an increase of 11 percent and more than double the growth from the same timeframe in 2015. Year-to-date, the NASCAR Facebook and Twitter accounts have generated more than 2.2 billion impressions and content engagement on social media is up 83 percent year-over-year at more than 114 million engagements.

All of these numbers are compiled by NASCAR’s Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC), which can parse 14,000 social media conversations each minute. The epicenter of this system is located on the 8th floor of NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, N.C. and plays out on more than a dozen 47-inch monitors.

In a case study by Hewlett-Packard of the FMEC, Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, said “It has changed how we do business significantly … The FMEC isn’t just data, it’s actionable data. It’s data that helps drive fan engagement, which sells more tickets to the racetracks.”

NASCAR’s data also shows there have been five times as many fans watching videos posted by NASCAR on Facebook and Twitter as last year – a total of more than 76 million video views. Race-day content is up 19 percent over 2015, while analytics show tweets about the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during a race broadcast is up 24 percent over last year.

With this week marking the official halfway point of the 2016 season, NASCAR brass are beaming over the positive interaction they are seeing from fans. Going forward, a NASCAR spokesperson said the sanctioning body expects an even greater response from fans as drivers battle to it out in the 2016 Chase for the Championship, where one will be crowned the series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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