Tony Stewart raced past Carl Edwards Sunday to win his third NASCAR crown in the finale of the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup as ESPN earned its best-ever rating with the stock car circuit.
ESPN's Nov. 20 telecast of the Ford 400 from Homestead-Miami Speedway averaged a 4.6 household cable rating, 4.0 nationally, and 6.79 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. The viewership average -- buoyed by a peak audience of 10.5 million at 8:08 p.m. when Stewart took the checkered flag -- broke ESPN's previous NASCAR record of 6.67 million watchers for the 2008 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. (Nov. 20's final figures do not include a rain delay from 4:45 p.m.-6 p.m.).
Viewership was up 21% from 5.605 million viewers, with the coverage rating ahead 18% from a 3.9 on ESPN, for last year's finale of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which saw Jimmie Johnson win his fifth consecutive title. The 2011 race also out-delivered the circuit's 2009 concluder that aired on ABC, which counted 5.607 million viewers and a 3.6 U.S. rating.
Ratings for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on ESPN and ABC increased 14.8% from 2010, averaging a 3.1 U.S. rating compared to 2.7 for last year (not including the rain-delayed Chicagoland Speedway event, which was run on a Monday). Also, excluding rainout races, ESPN and ABC's NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage for 2011 averaged a 3.2 U.S. rating, up 6% from a 3.0 for last year.
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