IndyCar saw a downturn in TV ratings and appeal across the world in late 1990’s, and into the new century. When the Indy Racing League split from CART in the mid-90’s, this sent a snowball effect of bad storylines across the sport.
Along with that, as they started to pick momentum back up in the mid 2000’s, the series’ biggest stars started leaving to chase aspirations in NASCAR., first with Sam Hornhish Jr., then Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick. Some people wondered if drivers like Scott Dixon and Will Power would do the same. They didn’t, and a new focus on social media, TV rights and at track experiences started to bring fans back to the track and to their living rooms at race time.
As 2012 neared, the sport mourned the loss of Dan Wheldon, but showed excitement for the new Dallara DW12. A car that had the best safety measures ever seen on an open-wheel racing car and the opportunity to produce some of the best racing IndyCar had ever seen. The racing got better, drivers walked away from bad wrecks uninjured and the sport continued to slowly work it’s way back into the limelight.
2015 will go down as one of the best IndyCar seasons in history. As the season began, the racing was the best it had ever been, all being put on display with a spectacular event at Auto Club. American star Graham Rahal took home the checkered flag, in what will go down as one of the best series races ever. The championship, which sometimes is a runaway for one or two drivers, came down to the final race at Sonoma, with a handful of competitors in position to take home the Astor Cup. Scott Dixon would eventually win the title, in a race that came down to the last lap to know who would be the 2015 IndyCar champion.
In 2016 and 2017, the sport has celebrated a sellout crowd for the 100th Indianapolis 500, the second biggest crowd in years for the 101st and record attendance at many tracks. The sport has also seen 500,000 fans watching their races on TV, on average, a number no one would have thought could happen again. With most races seeing a year over year increase in viewership and ratings, the sport has recovered from what was thought to be a downturn in 2017, with the first number of races seeing not so good ratings performances.
Yes, some races this season are down in ratings and no they aren’t close to NASCAR yet, but IndyCar is enjoying the most momentum they have had in decades.