NASCAR's experiment at Los Angeles Coliseum nets most Busch Clash viewers since 2016

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum drew over 4 million viewers.

NASCAR moved the season-opening exhibition race from Daytona to a purpose-built quarter-mile track inside of the famed stadium to build excitement for the 2022 season. The move paid off with a significant viewer increase. Nearly 4.3 million people watched Sunday’s race on Fox compared to under 2.5 million who watched the 2020 edition of the Clash on Fox Sports 1.

The 2021 Clash, held on a Tuesday night for the first time, drew fewer than 1.6 million viewers.

The viewer increase accomplishes the goal NASCAR was aiming for. It moved the Clash to Los Angeles and shifted the date to the weekend before the Super Bowl to attract casual viewers who may be looking for something other than the Pro Bowl or the Winter Olympics to watch. And the fun race attracted more viewers than the PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach that same day.

The size of the NASCAR audience, however, illustrates how much NASCAR’s television viewership has dropped in the 2000s. Just over 9.5 million people watched the Clash in 2003 the weekend before nearly 17 million people watched the Daytona 500. And more people watched the Clash on a Saturday night in 2016 than did on Sunday. That race on Feb. 13, 2016, drew 4.8 million viewers.

Unequivocally, Sunday’s audience is a validation of the push NASCAR put in to promote an exhibition race that went off largely without a hitch. The months of promotion for the unique race undoubtedly drew more viewers than another race at Daytona would have.

But you can’t tell the feel-good story of any rebound without mentioning why the rebound is occurring in the first place. The effort that was put into Sunday’s race is proof that it’s much easier to slowly lose a viewer audience than it is to quickly build it back up. And we’ll see in the next few weeks and months as the 2022 season begins in earnest if the bump in viewership for the Clash is the stepping stone to an even bigger bounceback.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 06: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 DoorDash Toyota, and Harrison Burton, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, race in the last chance qualifier prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 06, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)