Friday, April 20, 2007

NASCAR officials refuse to panic as ratings drop

By Nate Ryan, USA TODAY

With more story lines to sell, NASCAR still is luring fewer eyeballs to its races.

Ratings are down 11% for the first seven Nextel Cup Series races this season despite the ballyhooed debuts of Toyota, Juan Pablo Montoya and the Car of Tomorrow. Ratings also were off in the Busch Series, which has been promoted heavily by ESPN as part of the network's return to NASCAR.

The decline isn't unique to stock car racing; the NBA, Major League Baseball, NCAA basketball and the NHL all posted regular-season declines last year. But the lagging numbers loom as a two-year slowdown for NASCAR, whose 2006 ratings decreased in 32 of the 36 Cup races.
"All sports have growth spurts and reach plateaus," John Saunders, chief operating officer of the International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks, said in a recent conference call. "What is unique is that this is NASCAR's first time. We don't view it as a negative."


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