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Why isn’t the ‘Junior Effect’ giving NASCAR a TV ratings boost?

By admin | March 11, 2014

By Richard Allen

In case you hadn’t noticed, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is off to a great start in 2014. The Hendrick Motorsports driver won the Daytona 500, ran a solid 2nd the next week in Phoenix then had his car sputter as it ran out of gas while leading with the checkered flag virtually in sight last weekend in Las Vegas.

With the sport’s unquestioned most popular driver off to such a stellar beginning to the season, it would seem logical to expect NASCAR’s TV ratings to be trending upward. Perhaps some of the less-than-faithful members of the so-called ‘Junior Nation’ who had drifted away from NASCAR as their favorite struggled in recent years would be pulled back in to their living rooms on Sunday afternoons upon hearing of Earnhardt’s early successes. Or, his recognizable name might even draw newcomers into the sport out of curiosity.

However, that has not been the case at all. A look at the TV ratings page on the popular NASCAR-related website reveals a harsh truth.

“The 2014 Sprint Cup season has not gotten off to a great start on FOX. Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 400 from Las Vegas drew a 4.1 overnight rating on FOX, down 11% from last year (4.6), down 23% from 2012 (5.3), and tied with 2010 as the lowest overnight ever for the race since it moved to FOX in 2001. Overnights have declined for the first three Sprint Cup telecasts this season. The numbers have not just declined, but in fact have hit historic lows. Final ratings for the Daytona 500 were the lowest ever, and the final rating for Phoenix was the lowest for the second race of the season since FOX acquired rights. Keep in mind that Sunday’s final rating could still end up surpassing the FOX low of 4.4 set in 2010. Despite the lower numbers, the race earned the highest overnight of the weekend for a sporting event on broadcast.(Sports Media Watch via Sports Business Daily)(3-11-2014)”

When the question of why TV ratings were not doing better in a time in which such a fan favorite has been in contention in every race was posed to the followers of @RacingWithRich on Twitter, several noteworthy responses came back.

 @TheReal_HZ declared that “I think long time fans (like myself) are not happy with the constant rule changes & don’t even recognize the sport anymore.”

 @uforb2000 said, “Junior fans already watch. But boring cookie cutter tracks lose lots of fans on TV, especially in good weather.”

@Revvinforseven48 got to the point with, “Three words: TOO MANY GIMMICKS”

@BKCMsport offered multiple reasons for the drop off by saying,Gimmicks, talking about certain drivers too much, Cup in Nationwide & Trucks, etc, etc. ”

@cale_fan insisted, “For me, nascar has sucked out every bit of enjoyment I’ve had for over 30 yrs. Rule changes, penalties, announcers, favoritism”

And finally on the negative side, @DirtCast said, “because unfortunately the racing is boring!”

But there was some positivity. @1967ChevyC10Guy said, “yea i love the how hard they are running and the drivers in the chase taking gambles and driving their ass off is awesome”

To me, the bottom line seems to be that NASCAR has a significant perception problem. All of the issues mentioned above are believed to be the truth by many fans, whether they actually are true or not.

NASCAR has indeed made numerous rule changes over the past decade. With that being the case, it would be hard to avoid the sentiment expressed above regarding gimmicks. And quite honestly, the changes made to the cars over the past off season have not helped competition on the track in the first two “down force” races at Phoenix and Las Vegas. Both of those races featured little passing only to be rescued in the end by dramatic finishes.

There is no doubt that it is good for NASCAR when the sport’s most popular driver is doing well. However, it seems as if the sanctioning body may have squandered an opportunity by continually changing its rules and points system.

Any potential ‘Junior Effect’ on TV ratings may have been lost.

Topics: Articles |

31 Responses to “Why isn’t the ‘Junior Effect’ giving NASCAR a TV ratings boost?”

  1. Bob B Says:
    March 11th, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    The gimmicks and changes hurt overall . The announcers on at least one network with their blatant favoritism of certain teams, drivers and manufacturer along with their silly commentary and trademark made up words stops me from watching many races.

  2. Sue Rarick Says:
    March 11th, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    For the past few years Nascar has brought in NYC marketing people who have been aiming at the young and trendy. In the process they have alienated the traditional rural Nascar fan.

    Fewer and fewer young even have a drivers license and the trendy have wandered off to another trend. As for the rural fans, they are still alienated and see no reason to pay attention to Nascar when for years Nascar hasn’t given two squats and a burp about them.

  3. Anne Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Junior Nation is big..(why is another story) but there are plenty of fans who don’t give a hoot about Jr, Danica or the return of the 3. Junior has had very long and forgiving(by his fans) drought and everyone else has to hear about him, after years and years he is finally showing some umph and all is right with the world? Come on. Why should I care, he gets crammed down our throats 24/7. In the Nascar community because his last name is the same as beloved icon he is a god, sorry but true, and Nascar is exploiting it to death, along with the return of the 3, the first token female, etc. FOX and others have their narrow script which is provided to them by Castle Daytona. Junior winning the Daytona 500, congrats, but he achieved no more or less then the popular and not so popular who won before him, yet the win was treated as a salve for world peace. There are plenty more stories out there but they are cannot deviate from the same tired script. If they fixed the product on the track, the fluff stuff will not be necessary. The idiots in the booth don’t help one iota…but Fox has been told and they don’t listen.

  4. Russ Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Perhaps there is no “Jr. effect”. He has been around a good while, so maybe there is nobody left to jump on the band wagon. Those that arent on it already arent likely to do so.

    As to why the rating are continuing to sink? Perhaps ESPN and TNN were right when they gave the reasons they chose to leave, “an aging fan base……….”.

  5. Bill B Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Why isn’t the ‘Junior Effect’ giving NASCAR a TV ratings boost?
    Because the Brian Effect is greater than the Jr Effect.

  6. Bill Weisel Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 6:08 am

    The constant monkeying with the car and the rules only serve to prove they are both ill-conceived by a fool. This IS supposed to be stock car racing right? A clue…TRY STOCK CARS !! As for the jerk in the booth, thank God for DVR and the mute button. 125-150 commercials per race is horrific. Come on, is there any human alive that needs to see another Flo or gecko commercial in their lifetime?? And with a field of 43 there should be more coverage than just a handful of drivers. Can a CEO be impeached??

  7. Jannette Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 6:49 am

    1. Darrell Waltrip
    2. Michael Waltrip
    3. Brian France keeps meddling with the rules.
    4. Even Jr can’t fix what so many other people screw up.

  8. mrclause Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Why? The simple and yet complicated answer is Brian Z. France.

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Why? Boring races, constant rule changes, bad broadcasting & broadcasters on TV. A “good” finish doesn’t make up for a overall poor race - I have better things to do with 4 hrs of my time.

    I have to use multiple methods to even figure out what is going ON at the track when I’m home. I don’t bother to watch races anymore, I listen to the radio. Ironic that racing is better when I can’t see it.

  10. Ken Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Jr. is in the Chase. Jr. fans don’t need to watch until the Chase begins. The same thing will happen to the fans of other drivers who win. Fans of drivers that make the Chase will watch it until their driver is eliminated and then stop watching. Who could have seen this train wreck coming?

  11. Chuck Cahoon Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 8:16 am

    As one of those ‘aging fans’, i kind of agree with those questioning NASCARS marketing to the 20-30 year old market–but tracks do it too. I have season tickets at Texas and the music played before the race is bizarre. Sure don’t see many head bangers in the stands. Also, the tv broadcasts lack coverage of the field and miss some really good racing. I totally agree that Jr is completely overblown in coverage. Glad he is having a good year but it is insane how much exposure he gets compared to those other guys who happen to have better win records. Finally, as for Fox broadcasts–I am so tired of DW and his schilling for certain drivers and teams–JR and MWR to name a couple. Would love to see Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree moved up to the Cup broadcasts. Those guys know their job is to support the event, not to overshadow it.

  12. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I think having a litany of 1st Time Winners would help, including an impeachment of Brian France.

  13. Robert Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Any other ‘TV show’ that had poor ratings would try changing personnel until the ratings improved. Look at any news program and it happens all the time. Yet for some unknown reason, even with the 10 million posts on the internet in the past 10 years how horrible the Waltrip-vision channel is, they keep their jobs on air. Simply amazing.

  14. midasmicah Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Let’s see. The “Jr. effect” can’t fix what’s broken. Fans (including me) have gotten tired of the “parade racing” that occurs at most tracks. Race manipulation with “debris” cautions doesn’t help. And then you have the simply atrocious FAUX broadcast crew. As if Darrel Waltrip wasn’t bad enough, they’re shoving Michael Waltrip down our throats. Frankly, I’d rather listen to finger nails on a chalk board. And the never ending stream of commercials doesn’t help much. It’s getting to be unwatchable.

  15. Wayne Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 10:08 am

    To me, things started going downhill when FOX took over. The broadcast style they adopted catered to the Jerry Springer element and embarrassed racing to us life long fans. Some of the things I hear them say makes me cringe. The goofball, cornpone approach of the Waltrips, Larry, and maybe the person with the worst on air skills, Jeff Hammond is miles away from the commentary I would like to hear. One bright spot is that NBC seems to be avoiding that Boogity approach and has hired smart, articulate, well spoken on air people who I don’t believe will try to OVER HYPE the coverage. I’ve totally given up on FOX as they never listen to the fans, they continue to repeat the same poor coverage.

  16. Richard Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 10:19 am


  17. andre fortin Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Raise the body work, get air underneat, all aero stuff goes away, now we race. And to make it a little more entertaining, narrow the tires one inch or so.

    If race turns into a fuel mileage one, everybody to pit lane, mandatory to refill, tires is your choice, let’s race….. pedal to the floor. The way it is suppose to be no????

  18. Brian Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Rich, Pretty much the comments above summed up the entirely of what ails NASCAR right now.
    I am only 44 but have been a fan for 35+ years. So I am not old nor too far outside the “prime demographic”. Funny thing is does NASCAR even know what their actual demographic has been historically? They keep talking about an aging fans base well if that is true would some of the decline have happened due to the death of fans from the 50’s and 60’s? Also weren’t these same fans still around help fuel the growth back in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s? Is there a single definitive event, change, or happening that can be pointed to as the true start of the decline? I would answer “yes” Brian France installed as head of NASCAR and thus the Chase Era started, note other than some blips in rating increases. The NASCAR ratings, attendance, and viewership has consistently declined. Also note many of these blips occurred over the previous down year but did not necessarily improve over the year before that or say the highest rating year from say the 5 previous years. Blame the economy all they want but if they truly would look it should be obvious it started much earlier than 2008/2009.
    Still not real sure why Fox and NBC forked over that much money over the top of the current deal with Fox and ESPN/ABC. Overalll trends do not support that kind of money.

  19. Jay Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 11:33 am

    For me personally, the dominance of JJ have me less interested, but I still watch as much as I can. If I have something better to do, I will dvr the race.

    Also, a suggestion for those who hate fox coverage. Get Raceview from, follow whoever you want on the track, mute the tv, and listen to MRN or PRN. The radio guys are the best in the business.

  20. steven Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I still watch Nascar because of the great drivers and the competition. But the Waltrips and Danica repulse me. Oh, did I forget points points points points? And fake cautions drive me nuts. That’s about it.

  21. The Old Guy Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    How could one not know about Jr.’s great start. However, he’s started well in several of the last few seasons only to fade as the season progresses.

    I, for one, get very tired of seeing headlines such as “Jr. loses at Vegas.” when the headline should have been, “Keslowski wins at Vegas”. Couple that with the overhype of Patrick (Not the first female to complete in NASCAR)and the constant “She’s running well today, she’s in 25th only one lap down”.

    Darrel Waltrip has forgotten more about racing than most NASCAR fans ever knew. However, his role is being a company man and his paid to pitch the company BS.

    How about if we put Richard and Kyle Petty in the booth and let them “tell it like it is”?

    Danica Patrick won last years pole. Was there anyone who really thought she wouldn’t?

    The #3, driven by Austin Dillon won this years pole. Was there anyone who thought it wouldn’t?

    The last time we saw a #3 car with a Yellow and Blue Paint Scheme in a race, it was driven by Jr. Was there anyone who thought it wouldn’t win that race. (I can hear Mike Helton in the Garage are before that race. “Now, I’m not saying let Jr. win. But, if he’s in contention, think how good it would be for NASCAR if he did win.)

    Jr. won the Firecracker 400 in 2001. Was there anyone who really thought he wouldn’t?

    Jr. won the first race after the events of 9/11 in a car that looked like an American Flag. Was there really anyone who thought he wouldn’t?

    Finally, what Jr. and his sister tried to do to Teresa Earnhardt bordered on being Criminal. Jr.’s move to HMS was a done deal long before his “I must have 51% or I’ll leave” ruse. Jr. couldn’t leave and make it look like it was his choice..

    The pursuit of Jr. by PepsiCo was well documented but has been conveniently buried..

    OK, I’ve said enough.

  22. Judi Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    NASCAR is not the only sport that is losing fans. I agree that there are too many commercials, but that is also the case in football, baseball, etc. No one man can change what is happening to ratings, etc. But many people watch things on their computers now, so that is not counted in the ratings. I think Fox should change out the Waltrips. Mikey is an owner and his brother is still the same “jaws” that he was when racing.

    The 18 -34 group that all sports powers are trying to interest in watching their sport had better start understanding that many of them HAVE NO INTEREST in watching any sport. They are too attached to their video games and electronic toys. In my own family there are 11 boys and girls aged 9 -19. Not one of them, even though their parents and grandparents like sports have any interest in watching a race or many football games. If “their” team is a winner, they might watch the playoffs, but their electronic toy is in their hands at all times.

    As for the JR effect. He is “my” driver. I watch the races to see how he is doing. Also have a few other drivers that I “root” for. BUT, when JR is done racing, I know that my interest will not be the same. Will still follow some NASCAR, probably Chase Elliott, but not to the extent that I do now.

    It is hard to explain to non-JR fans why his fans are so devoted to him. For me there is something about him that touched my heart the day his father was killed. Just watching him run to the care center and then to see what pressure NASCAR and the media has put on him thru the years and the class he has handled it for the most part, has made me a fan of his forever. Win or Lose. Myself, I am very happy that he has a win already, and is doing so well this year.

    That does not mean that I like all of the changes NASCAR has made to the Chase. But things do change. I have watched enough races to know that not all will be good. But again, many football games, baseball games, whatever are not all spell binding or even so-so. But if you like sports that comes with the territory.

    The last couple years it seems that Dale JR appears to be at peace with him self and that he is truly over trying to “fill his father’s shoes” and is now a man happy with his life. For all of his critics, he does not hype him self, and he seems humble, gives a lot of his time to the Make A Wish Foundation among other charities and seems like a really nice guy. He does not need articles like yours asking about the “Junior Effect.” We JR fans are already watching the races. Him winning does not mean that me for example will stop watching just because he has a win. It just makes you root harder for that 2nd win and if he gets that, then root for his 3rd win. And of course root against some drivers and hope they don’t get a win.

  23. Overra88ted Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    The Old Guy Says…. was spot on about the Hendrick red-headed stepchild and PepsiCo. There was even an article about it on Na$ that has long since been buried. Also, at the time, way before the moving to HMS was announced. While on Wind Tunnel, Ole DW said Dale Jr. new ride would be a Green Pepsi sponsored car.

  24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 5:35 pm



  25. Richard Allen Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    @ “Ricky Stenhouse Jr”


  26. Leto Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    The Old Man Says:
    Given you seem to think that things are rigged, can I ask how you believe that NASCAR manages to rig everything for certain drivers to win, and yet Jr is still without a Cup title?

    Danica won the Pole for the 500 last year by some miracle. I don’t think anyone actually thought that she would do it (I certainly didn’t). Completely ignoring the fact that in Daytona 500 qualifying in 2013, HMS and HMS-affiliated cars were 1st (Danica), 2nd (Gordon), 4th (Newman), 5th (Stewart), and 6th (Kahne). HMS had speed last year.

    A similar thing happened this year. RCR and their affiliates were fast in qualifying. They were also fast in practice and fast in testing. I’m sure that with them being 1st (Dillon), 2nd (Truex), 5th (Newman), 10th (Menard) and 13th (Brian Scott) that it was rigged for Dillon to get the pole by .04 seconds over Truex.

    I’m sure that NASCAR and all of their drivers are so great that they can rig everything…

    Why ratings are down is simple: Fox has ruined their broadcast even more than they did in 2013. Their little box of awfulness instead of a ticker is terrible (It’s nearly impossible to read on my 32″ TV from any distance over about a foot). Their coverage has gotten somehow worse than in 2013. None of their gimmicks in covering the pre-race stuff is at all tolerable for most fans.

    I know we’ll be hearing more and more about how ratings are down come 2015, when more and more races are shoved off Fox and more move to cable. Remember, NBC is putting a number of their Cup races on NBC Sports Network an Fox has the right now to move a bunch to Fox Sports 1. And if you think that Fox won’t put something like Dover- historically a ratings pit- on Fox Sports 1, you’re sadly deluding yourself.

  27. jim Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Two too many waltrips and too many good old days discussions during the race

  28. Offkilter Says:
    March 12th, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Personally i could not care any less if ratings are being construed as evidence at proving some late night theory that Junior is not the savior after all. All i know is life is good right now in JR nation.
    Funny post by Ricky Stenhouse, btw

  29. The Old Guy Says:
    March 13th, 2014 at 9:06 am

    You actually can fool some of the people all of the time.

  30. Overra88ted Says:
    March 13th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    The Old Guy Says ….Obviously Jr. Nation Fools have been fooled for years.

  31. Offkilter Says:
    March 13th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I agree with Leto for those valid points against a conspiracy. My personal thoughts are this. Most everyone here thinks nascar brass is horrible and stupid. If thats true, how did they pull off these perceived favoritisms by only a few hundreths of a tenth? Tech is out in the open and not behind closed doors, correct? And where the heck is Jr’s championship? :-)