IndyCar TV ratings up, still long way to go

The IndyCar Series’ television ratings are headed in the right direction, but they’re still a long way from where advertisers and sponsors want to see them.

The series got off to a rough start last Saturday as its race north of the border was rained out. The make-up race the next morning was switched last minute from NBC Sports Network to CNBC. That race attracted 128,000 viewers nationwide.

The second of IndyCar’s double-header in Toronto ran close to the time it was originally scheduled on NBCSN and drew 484,000 viewers nationwide, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. While that’s about half of what national advertisers and major corporate brands would like to see on a consistent basis out of the open-wheel series, the second Toronto race was the most-watched IndyCar race on NBCSN since the 2011 Grand Prix of Baltimore, which drew 591,000 sets of eyeballs.

The second race in Toronto started under dry conditions but got rained on before finally drying out a bit. Mike Conway won the race marred by a number of crashes. The intrigue was ratcheted up by teams deciding when to race on rain tires and when to race on slicks late in the race as the rain ended.

Through eight races this season, IndyCar Series race ratings on NBCSN are up 46 percent from last year (from 274,000 viewers per race in 2013 to 400,000 in 2014), according to Nielsen.

The IndyCar Series has four races remaining on its schedule, all in August and all on NBCSN. The early end date this year comes as Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar parent Hulman & Co., seeks to end the season by Labor Day to avoid bumping heads with the National Football League.

The IndyCar Series’ next race will be the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The green flag drops at 3 p.m.

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