After a run of increases, NASCAR stumbled to its first decline of the season Sunday.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Jeff Byrd 500* from Bristol earned a 3.9 overnight rating on FOX Sunday aternoon, down 19% from last year’s fourth race of the season (Atlanta: 4.8), and down 17% from the fourth race in 2009 (Atlanta: 4.7).
The 3.9 overnight also marks a 7% decline from last year’s spring Bristol race, which aired on the comparable date last year (4.2). Overall, this marks the lowest overnight for the spring Bristol race since it moved to FOX in 2001.
The previous ten-year low was a 4.1 overnight for the 2009 race.
The last Sunday afternoon NASCAR race on FOX to draw less than a 4.0 overnight was last year’s Autism Speaks 400 (3.6).
The three previous Sprint Cup races on FOX this season each had increases compared to the comparable races last year. The Daytona 500 drew an 8.2 (up 17%), the Subway Fresh Fit 500 drew a 5.3 (up 6%), and the Kobalt Tools 400 drew a 5.3 (up 29%).
While some may surmise that the increased numbers NCAA Tournament had something to do with Sunday’s results, Jayski.com points out that “the two [NCAA] windows that faced the Bristol race were up only +4% over last year (5.8/13 vs. 5.6/13)” (jayski.com, 3/21/11).
It should be pointed out that last year’s fourth race of the season did not face NCAA Tournament competition at all, which could account for the 19% decline. However, that would not explain the 7% decline from last year’s Bristol race, which did face NCAA coverage.
* The spring Bristol race, previously known as the Food City 500, was named the Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City this year in honor of late Bristol Motor Speedway president Jeff Byrd, who passed away in October.
(Overnight rating from jayski.com)