Patrick Pegs NASCAR Television Ratings, Exposure Meters

Charlotte, NC – (February 21, 2010) – It seems like just yesterday when the common ‘wisdom’ was that Danica Patrick needed NASCAR more than NASCAR needed her. With Indy-car style racing struggling for entitlement sponsorship and television viewers, the general consensus was Patrick needed to jump to NASCAR to keep her career afloat.

Think again.

Forget that Patrick is struggling to learn the ropes of driving the bigger, heavier NASCAR stock cars or that her finishes have been anything but stellar in her first two races (35th at Daytona after a crash and 31st at California this weekend). If race event television ratings and appearances on network television shows count for anything, Patrick clearly has brought more to America’s premier stock car division than it may ever be able to give back.

While the television numbers from California aren’t in yet, Patrick’s entrance into the stock car ranks blew the lid off the Nielsen Ratings chart in her two Daytona events as both the NASCAR Nationwide and ARCA races drew record television ratings. In the Nationwide race, ESPN2 averaged more than 4.2 million viewers and in the process became the most-viewed Nationwide Series race ever to be telecast on cable. Earning a national household coverage rating of 3.2 (4,271,365 viewers in 3,170,109 households), the telecast crushed the old Nationwide cable TV record of 3,954,798 viewers (2,946,951 households) set by TNT at Daytona in 2006.

Additionally, this year’s 3.2 rating were up a whopping 33 percent from the 2.4 rating for last year’s Daytona race on ESPN2.

Even more staggering were the numbers from Patrick’s appearance in the ARCA race where television ratings on SPEED were up an incredible 87 percent over the previous year’s event. The ARCA race scored a Nielsen Rating of 2.3 (1,723,000 households), a 59-percent increase over last year’s 1.45 (1,062,000 households).

If you’re having a little trouble putting all of this into perspective, consider the following – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Gatorade Duels at Daytona this year earned a 1.99 Nielsen Rating on SPEED. That’s right, the ARCA race – with Patrick front and center – stood toe-to-toe with the Cup boys and their twin qualifying races on SPEED.

Not one to rest on her Daytona laurels, Patrick sped into California this week appearances on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on Wednesday, Jimmy Kimmel Live! On Thursday and the Bonnie Hunt Show Friday. About the only driver who came even close to this kind of media attention this week was Jamie McMurray and he WON the Daytona 500.

Patrick is arguably the hottest media property in all of motorsports – not just NASCAR – right now and that’s without success on the track. If she ever masters stock car racing and starts to run well or win events, the television numbers, media attention and marketing surge will be seismic.

The bottom line is even without the top performances, Patrick is bringing massive attention to NASCAR – not the other way around – and that’s something that nobody could have envisioned as little as one year ago.

John McKarns

A great friend to short-track stock car racing was lost on Tuesday, February 9, when John McKarns passed on taking the final checkered flag in his adopted retirement home of Tavares, FL.

It was this writer’s honor to be a friend to McKarns for the last 30 years. As a fledgling motorsports journalist in the 1980’s covering as many as 70 races a year, I was trackside at more ARTGO Challenge Series events than I can remember, a series that McKarns owned and managed from the middle 1970’s through1997.

Thanks in large part to McKarns, those years were the ‘Golden Era’ of Midwestern short-track racing as at any given ARTGO event, fans could thrill to the exploits of drivers like Dick Trickle, Joe Shear, Ted Musgrave, Tom Reffner, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and countless others. In an era when a big crowd at a local raceway on a Saturday night was 1,000-1,500 fans, McKarns would pack in as many as five times that number at a Tuesday or Thursday mid-week ARTGO show that might also feature a top NASCAR star or two like Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, or Bobby Allison.

Those were heady times – great stars, cars and crowds. Honestly, looking back, those were the best of times. Anyone who was lucky enough to be there would probably agree.

I was also fortunate enough to have an additional personal connection to McKarns and his wife, Sue. McKarns ran his ARTGO enterprise out of Libertyville, IL, the town I grew up in. At almost every race, McKarns would invariably greet me with “Hey, Libertyville Wildcat,” Rarely an event went by without conversation about what was happening ‘back home.’

Sadly, cancer took John McKarns from us last week at the young age of 65. While no longer here, McKarns will always be remembered fondly by the countless thousands who shared his love for auto racing, attended his events, and saw their careers prosper in the sport because of his efforts.

A ‘Hall of Famer’ in every possible way, McKarns is survived by his wife, Sue, and their sons Geoff and Gregg.

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