Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race won by Ryan Blaney had approximately 300,000 fewer viewers than the same race a season ago.
Per Nielsen data via Sports TV Ratings, an average of just over 2.9 million people watched Blaney win his first Cup Series title over Kyle Larson, William Byron and Christopher Bell. Last season’s championship race — won by Blaney’s teammate Joey Logano — had an average audience of 3.213 million viewers.
The decline comes after two seasons of audience stability for the Cup Series finale. Last season’s race had basically the same audience as the 2021 finale (3.214 million) and had approximately 150,000 more viewers than the 2020 finale (3.063 million).
The lower viewership for Sunday’s race is slightly above the average decline in NASCAR viewership overall in 2023. NASCAR president Steve Phelps said Friday that the series was content with the modest declines overall after significant viewer losses at the beginning of the season.
“NBC came back in a powerful way,” Phelps said. “Those metrics are up. If you consider back in March we were down 15%, now we’re down mid-single digits, we’re happy with where that is.”
Sunday’s average audience is, however, less than half of what it was for the 2016 season finale. Over 6 million people watched Jimmie Johnson win his seventh and final title that season.
NASCAR has just one more year remaining on its current Cup Series television deal with Fox and NBC, and you can bet that both networks are taking viewership trends into account at the negotiating table with NASCAR. Both networks are expected to continue their relationships with the stock car racing series after the expiration of the current deal.
The broadcast negotiations also come as Cup Series teams want a bigger share of money from the television rights fees NASCAR receives. Cup teams are having discussions with NASCAR regarding the renewal of the charter agreement that guarantees 36 cars entry into every race and a bigger share of the prize money available at the end of the season.
“We’ve acknowledged that we want to change the paradigm for our race teams and we need to make sure our race teams are profitable, competing on the race tracks,” Phelps said. “We are interested in having their enterprise value climb, as I said earlier.”
“No timeline, but we are, as we’re finalizing our media rights, talking about other portions of what our charters would look like that are not financial.”