More watched Dar­ling­ton race than any sport­ing event since Day­tona 500

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Alex Andrejev

Even with­out fans in at­ten­dance, NASCAR’s re­turn reached a lot of eyes Sun­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Fox Sports, Sun­day’s race at Dar­ling­ton av­er­aged 6.32 mil­lion view­ers and was the most-watched com­pet­i­tive sports event on ca­ble tele­vi­sion since this year’s Day­tona 500, which reached more than 7 mil­lion view­ers.

“A great day for sports in gen­eral,” Hall of Fame driver and Fox NASCAR an­a­lyst Jeff Gor­don said af­ter the race. “Peo­ple con­nect to sports and peo­ple con­nected to what was go­ing on out there [Sun­day].”

The broad­cast, which was pri­mar­ily con­ducted re­motely from Fox NASCAR’s Char­lot­te­based stu­dio in or­der to limit the num­ber of peo­ple on-site amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, earned a 3.7 tele­vi­sion rat­ing, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen.

View­er­ship was up 38% from NASCAR’s last race at Phoenix be­fore the sea­son was post­poned in March. The au­di­ence peaked in the fi­nal quar­ter-hour of the race, won by No. 4 driver Kevin Har­vick, at 6.8 mil­lion view­ers.

“To be en­ter­tained and have a race of this mag­ni­tude and the his­tory of this track,” Gor­don said. “You could hear in Kevin Har­vick’s voice just how much that [win] meant to him and his team and also to the fans.”

“Even though the [fans] weren’t there. They weren’t present at the track.”

The top five lo­ca­tions where fans tuned in were tra­di­tional NASCAR mar­kets in the south­east. In or­der of tele­vi­sion rat­ings, those were Greens­boro, N.C. (9.5 rat­ing), Char­lotte, N.C. (9.1), In­di­anapo­lis (8.9), Nashville, (6.7) and Jack­sonville (6.4 rat­ing), ac­cord­ing to Fox Sports.

The num­bers also in­di­cated that rac­ing may have reached new fans. The big­gest de­mo­graphic gain in view­er­ship was among men ages 18 to 34, which was up 47% since the last NASCAR Cup race be­fore the pan­demic forced the sport to shut down in March.

“We are back,” Fox NASCAR an­nouncer Mike Joy said. “What a long 10 weeks it was, but what a great day it was for the fans, es­pe­cially for Kevin Har­vick, [and] for all NASCAR, for this sport to make its re­turn and to do it in a safe man­ner and have a great race to show for it.”

JARED C. TIL­TON/GETTY/TNS

Alex Bow­man, #88, and Kevin Har­vick, #4, lead dur­ing the NASCAR Cup Se­ries The Real He­roes 400.

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