There is no denying that NASCAR’s popularity has waned over recent years. Just over a decade ago the Daytona 500 would draw 19 million viewers. The 2019 Daytona 500 viewership was just 9 million. By anyone’s standards that is an alarming fall.
People have different views on why the motorsport has failed to join the upper echelons of American sports. Some argue that the retirement of its high profile drivers has had a big impact, with the new generation of drivers failing to break through into mainstream sports fame.
Others claim that money has corrupted the sport and made it an elitist pay-to-play sport. The franchise system has made NASCAR a closed shop.
While NASCAR scrambles to address its national (and global) popularity problem, we wanted to look at exactly where its core fanbase is. So here’s what we did:
We analyzed Google Trends data to compare NASCAR’s popularity across every state. We then plotted the data on a map to help to visualize the most popular regions across the country.
The numbers are based on proportion of searches rather than total searches, so the population of each state is accounted for in the data.
Here is a full ranking of NASCAR’s popularity by state:
|District of Columbia||11|
West Virginia is the so-called ‘NASCAR state’ with the most interest in the motorsport. Surprisingly, there are no active NASCAR tracks in the Mountain State, but that doesn’t seem to dampen the locals’ enthusiasm for the sport.
North Carolina is close behind. The Old North State is probably the the first place most people think of when they think of NASCAR. Firstly, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Charlotte. In addition, the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the fact that the majority of NASCAR teams are based out of Charlotte, or nearby, makes North Carolina the unofficial home of NASCAR for many. North Carolina has also produced more NASCAR champions than any other state, including household names such as Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Dale Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Scott Riggs, Kyle Petty, and Rick Hendrick.
At the other end of the table, District of Columbia and Hawaii are by far the states least interest in NASCAR. California sitting third from the bottom may raise a few eyebrows considering it hosts two Cup races and a number of drivers hail from the Golden State, including 7x champion Jimmie Johnson.
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