The sports industry was challenged during 2020 like no other time in recent memory.  We will review how motorsports responded and its results after its season of racing.

The early portion of race schedule was subject to typical weather delays. The Daytona 500 finished on Monday and posted lower ratings and attendance.  The next several races were run with solid viewership until the shutdown in Mid – March.

Over the next seven weeks, Fox broadcast eNascar iRacing competitions.  These races were a completely new concept for professional sports – virtual competition on broadcast networks. 

They used the regular commentators calling the contests remotely from their converted home studios.   Started off a little rough, but was refined each week. Towards the end the entire technology work flow process was seamless and served as a foundation for a new operating environment.

The iRacing events ranked as the highest rating esports television programs of all time.  There were about 2.0 million new unique viewers who had not previous watched NASCAR this year.

NASCAR returned to live racing in early May with a Darlington race.  Over the next nine weeks, they made up the postponed races and got the season caught up by mid-season at the Brickyard in early July.

This was a phenomenal task which included dozens of scenarios and running midweek races and double headers on new circuit configurations.  Practice and qualifying was limited to condense travel time and lower costs.

In the end, they finished the season on time in early November and crowned a new champion in Phoenix.  Chase Elliott, age 24, became the third youngest title holder in NASCAR Cup history.

Statistically, the NASCAR races were competitive with record green flag passes, lead changes and narrow margin of victory.  

The delayed season caused NASCAR to move the introduction of the Next Gen car to the 2022 season.  A revised testing timeline was announced to allow manufacturers and teams additional time to evaluate performance data.

Overall, the television ratings for the NASCAR Cup 2020 season held up relatively strong.  Average viewership was 3.05 million, a decrease of 2.0% from the previous year. Without the major impact of the Daytona 500 rain delay, there was actually a slight increase for the season.  There are over 190 countries and territories receiving NASCAR related content.

Most major sports properties experienced double digit declines in 2020.  The regular seasons for MLB, NBA, and NHL were off by over 30% and playoffs even more.  Early games for the NFL are down less.

NASCAR early return to the track was not just about racing.  It required a massive effort to meet the hurdles imposed by the pandemic.

They had to work with health and government officials to develop protocols that would protect its community.  Assuring the safety of its personnel was critical.  The number of drivers, race team and at track personnel who contracted the coronavirus was not extensive. 

They did not utilize testing regimes or operate in a bubble environment used by other professional leagues.  Instead they utilized health questionnaires and temperature checks, to each person entering the race track. 

Sponsors supported the sport throughout the season.  NASCAR moved from a single series entitlement to a premier partner model.  Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, Geico, and Xfinity were recognized as NASCAR 2020 Marketing Achievement Award winners.

The financial health of NASCAR was challenged.  The received the annual broadcast contract fees of approximately of $850 million by completing its season.  The lack of fans attending races cost them over $100 million in lost revenue.  The debt associated with going private last year raised interest payments.

Overall, NASCAR met the challenges with strength in a difficult year.  Encounters on many fronts, but they moved forward with a methodical approach that will pay dividends as they moved towards next season.