Brickyard 400 draws big, just not in person

Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013

The Nielsen ratings for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was telecast on ESPN, included some very telling information.

The race received a 3.6 rating – up 9 percent from a year ago (3.3).

Attendance, however, was perhaps the lowest in the race’s 20-year history. That was not necessarily a surprise.

What was a little surprising were the details behind the rating.

The market with the largest rating – where the most people had their TVs tuned to the 400 – was Indianapolis, with a whopping 13.7 rating. And that was up 26 percent from last year’s 10.9 rating.

What that means is a very large segment of residents in the Indianapolis market remain firmly loyal NASCAR fans. It also means is they were not interested in attending the race in person.

That is the best evidence I’ve seen of the growing disconnect between fans who attend NASCAR races and those who watch on TV.

It’s a gulf NASCAR and the tracks are going to have to work hard to bridge. It also is one that has no easy solution.

Any remaining negative economic impact on fans and the potential for bad weather forecasts combine to make viewing from home a better option for many.

Technological advances through better TVs and access to driver radio channels help make the TV choice easier as well

Tracks have been working hard at looking for ways to make the in-person option more appealing, but they’re going to need some help from NASCAR and its drivers.

Someone has to sell the idea that there is still nothing like being there.


Gifford’s Nationwide debut: Winchester, Tenn., native Ryan Gifford, a participant in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, could make his Nationwide Series debut Saturday at Iowa Speedway.

Gifford, 24, will drive the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Gifford also works at RCR’s shop.

Gifford has competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for five seasons and won his first race April 25 at Richmond, Va.

New faces in new places: Former crew chief Chris Wright has been named director of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Kip Childress transitions to become the director of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

In addition, veteran team manager and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Tony Glover was appointed as technical director for the NASCAR Touring Series.

As a crew chief, Glover has 24 Cup series wins, including Daytona 500s with Sterling Marlin (twice) and Ernie Irvan.

Hendrick Motorsports names general manager: Doug Duchardt, who joined Hendrick Motorsports as an executive during 2005, has been elevated to the newly created position of executive vice president and general manager. He will report to team owner Rick Hendrick and company president Marshall Carlson.

In his expanded role, Duchardt, 49, will direct all racing operations for HMS, which fields four teams. He also will manage technical relationships, encompassing engine leases and chassis purchases.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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