Last weekend was something of a spring coming-out party for 2021 motorsports with F1, IndyCar, NASCAR and NHRA all hitting the track.
The NTT IndyCar Series opened its season at Barber Motorsports Park on NBC, averaging a 0.59 Nielsen rating and 914,000 viewers for the Sunday afternoon telecast. That’s down from the 0.80 rating and 1.25 million viewers who watched last year’s pandemic-delayed opener on the same free-to-air network at Texas on a Saturday night in June, but up from the 495,000 that watched 2019’s opener at St. Petersburg on NBCSN.
NBC noted that its coverage of the Barber race averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TV + digital) of 921,000 viewers, up 3% from NBC’s 2020 IndyCar race average excluding the Indy 500 (891,000). NBC Sports Digital’s live stream of the race recorded an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 7,000 viewers, the highest AMA to date for an NBC IndyCar race other than the Indy 500.
NASCAR’s Cup Series was playing opposite IndyCar on FOX, and averaged a 2.0 rating and 3.3m viewers. That was a solid step up from the 1.37/2.3m that tuned in for the delayed finish of the previous week’s in Martinsville on FS1, but up only fractionally in audience from the last FOX telecast on Bristol’s dirt (1.84/3.1m), even though that race ran on a Monday afternoon.
Perhaps Formula 1 benefited by avoiding direct competition with other racing, coming close to IndyCar’s viewing numbers despite playing on cable. Sunday morning’s race from Imola averaged a 0.53/906,000 viewers on ESPN. That’s the sixth-largest cable audience for F1 on record and larger than all F1 telecasts during the 2020 season. It’s also the largest audience for an F1 race since the 2019 Canadian GP (1.1 million viewers on ABC).
NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series race at Richmond averaged a 0.48/769,000 viewers on FS1 Saturday afternoon.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returned to action in Las Vegas, with the finals averaging a 0.18/277,000 viewers on FS1.