IndyCar – Yes, people are watching! …from home.

Scott Dixon exits the Turn 9/9A chicane complex during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma -- Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher
Scott Dixon exits the Turn 9/9A chicane complex during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma -- Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher

TV ratings and track attendance for Indy car racing, be it under the guise of CART/CCWS or the IRL, over the past couple of decades has had it’s ups and downs. Mainly downs. The TV ratings on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), a cable-only network typically found on the premier packages, have surged. While still looking to break into the 1M+ viewers, the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway, drew a record 841,000 viewers. This is the highest rating ever for the series on NBCSN. In fact, this has been a banner year for the growing cable network. Five of the top ten rated races since NBCSN assumed the broadcasting rights from Versus have been from this season, including the top two. The previous record of 666,000 viewers was set earlier in the month for the tape-delayed airing of the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course in Lexington, OH. That’s the good news, and as fans of Formula 1 know, television numbers are everything! …well, almost everything.

Mr. Ecclestone, of course, is famous for saying that he doesn’t care if his show races in front of empty grandstands, so long as the TV numbers are good. That, of course, is a bit of bravado, and as the Turkish Grand Prix has demonstrated, it’s not entirely true. Television ratings are important. In fact, they’re extremely important! They are what allows you to recruit new sponsors and their money to the sport. It’s the at-the-track experience, though, that allows you to keep those sponsors. Attendance at many of the road and street circuits this year has been healthy, but some venues such as Fontana and Sonoma have had less than desirable turnouts forcing some to terminate their relationship with the series. In 2016, we will not see IndyCar race at Fontana, and likely not at Milwaukee or Pocono. The challenging question facing Mr. Miles, CEO Hulman & Company which owns INDYCAR, is how to get fans to not only watch at home, but also to buy tickets and venture out to the race tracks. It’s not an easy problem to solve as many series are discovering, including some of the traditional juggernauts of the sport such as NASCAR. It’s a problem that INDYCAR needs to solve and right soon. The up-tick in TV ratings is great, but now the series also needs to see an up-tick in race attendance.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

buke lacktavose

Those tv numbers are still pretty atrocious. They need to broadcast these races on standard network TV for success.

Paul KieferJr

When the economy is as atrocious as it is right now, not many people are going to have enough “discretionary” spending as they would like, so they’re going to cut back on what they do, and if they can do it from home, they’ll choose that over being there in person. Everyone has to adjust their price points accordingly or they will all fail. If the economy gets better at some point, or the price point gets adjusted to where it’s affordable again, then attendance will increase.


It’s this and more. Sanctioning fees need to come down a bit, but more importantly, INDYCAR needs to step up and be an active partner with the race promoters. The sanctioning body needs to be financially invested in the event’s success and share in the responsibility of marketing the event. As of right now, that’s not happening.

Mike W

841,000 is amazing! ABC pulls in a little over a million for all the other races they show (other than Indy), so getting close to a million on NBCSN is fantastic. But now for the 6 month offseason….


When you consider that the U.S. has well over 300 million people, the fact that less than 1 million tuned in this race, is not exactly amazing …

Of course being on a subscription cable channel doesn’t help, but really, it is a small number.

nick price

two years of growth for IndyCar on TV is a very good thing