Ratings Disaster: NHMS Chase Race Least Watched NASCAR Chase Premiere Ever

Rib Calhoun Jr.Contributor ISeptember 22, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JULY 02:  NASCAR chairman Brian France speaks to members of the media prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 2, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In every sport, when the playoffs begin, more viewers tune in.

That is, in every sport -- except NASCAR.

While the exciting win by upstart Bowyer and the failed fuel gamble by Stewart is still all the racing news NASCAR is focusing on this week, the real story that's playing out in the background is how few people tuned in to watch it. It was a number that shocked all. How few is "few", you ask?

1.3 Million less people than last year.

This year's inaugural Chase race had a peak of 3.677 Million people tuning in. Last year, over 5 Million people tuned in for this race. What's worse is the fact that, besides the niche All-Star Race on TNT, the race on sunday -- the beginning of the NASCAR playoffs -- was the lowest rated race of the year.

Let that fact sink in for a second.

And while this article's title uses the word "disaster", this time it isn't hyperbole for reader's sake: The 2.3 Rating the NHMS race got on ESPN is the worst viewer rating in the history of the "Chase" premiere. Last year's was a 3.2 rating. When the playoffs start, people aren't supposed to flee you. But that's what just happened on Sunday; over a million people fled from NASCAR on ESPN. It's a number that must have NASCAR's higher-up shaking in their boots; For if it were not for the exciting product on track this past Sunday, the massive loss of viewers would probably be the only thing everybody would be talking about.

Wasn't the Chase supposed to fix this?

When it arrived in 2004, the NASCAR higher-ups proclaimed that it was a way to battle against the constant dominance of the NFL late in the season -- A way to recapture the viewers they lost come football time -- well, What's really damning about this turn of events is that the ratings for this same race in 2003 --the year before the Chase began-- were higher than this year's "solution to the NFL eyeball drain" it was created for.

It's become clear that, at least on TV, the Chase has failed.

The real question that remains, however, is in light of these numbers, will NASCAR do anything more than just "tweak" the system? For what was supposed to bring "drama" and "excitement" has left fans --and potentially Sponsors who are looking at those ratings-- wondering why the Chase is there if it isn't doing what it was intended to do. Will the NASCAR braintrust finally side with the majority of the fans and rid themselves of it altogether?

If the numbers continue to drop going after leaving Dover next Sunday, don't be too surprised if that question ends up being answered sooner than anyone -- even NASCAR -- had ever expected.

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