The final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup featured a down-to-the-wire battle for the championship and earned the largest viewership ever for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race telecast on ESPN.
With a peak audience of 10.5 million when the checkered flag fell on champion Tony Stewart at 8:08 p.m. ET, ESPN’s telecast of the Ford 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20, averaged 6,799,000 viewers and earned a 4.6 household coverage rating (4.0 U.S. rating), according to the Nielsen Company. The viewership average broke ESPN’s previous record of 6,668,000 viewers for the 2008 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Final figures do not include a rain delay from 4:45-6 p.m.
Viewership was up 21 percent and the rating was up 18 percent from last year’s event, which also aired on ESPN and earned a 3.9 coverage rating and averaged 5,605,000 viewers. In addition, the 2011 race out-delivered the 2009 race that aired on ABC and earned 5,607,000 viewers and a 3.6 U.S. rating.
Ratings for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on ESPN and ABC increased 14.8 percent from 2010, averaging a 3.1 U.S. rating compared to 2.7 for last year (not including the rain-delayed Chicagoland Speedway event, which was run on a Monday). Also, excluding rainout races, ESPN and ABC’s NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage for 2011 averaged a 3.2 U.S. rating, up more than six percent from a 3.0 for last year.
About NASCAR on ESPN:
ESPN produces comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Additionally, ESPN2 is the television home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. ESPN’s NASCAR coverage extends to ESPN.com, SportsCenter, ESPN the Magazine, WatchESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio and ESPN International, among other ESPN platforms. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981 and returned to NASCAR coverage in 2007. The network’s award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN has been honored with 19 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide.