Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway had the track’s best attendance at a race since 2016, according to track officials.
MIS also sold out the infield campsites for the race weekend – the first time that’s happened since 2012.
Reasons for increased interest are two-fold – first, MIS only has one race weekend now, when it had two from 1974 to 2019. Fans also cited renewed interest in NASCAR this year, brought on by the new Next Gen racecar that aims to create more parity and closer racing.
NASCAR no longer provides specific attendance numbers for races. The track used to have grandstand seating for 137,000 people in 2006, but tore out grandstands as demand declined. Now, it can seat 56,000.
A handful of NASCAR tracks have sold out of their tickets this year, although MIS didn’t have a sell out this weekend.
RELATED: Our favorite 15 photos from NASCAR’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at MIS
Attendance wasn’t the only encouraging data point this weekend at MIS. TV ratings were also up to their highest mark since 2019, despite the race being delayed by more than an hour due to rain.
The NASCAR race was the second-most watched sporting event of the week, losing out only to the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game, was on network television. Notably, NASCAR beat out all MLB TV ratings, PGA ratings and WWE ratings this week, even though the race was on cable and the others were on FOX or CBS.
TV ratings for NASCAR plummeted throughout the 2010s, but have since stabilized – and in some cases, started increasing again.
Here’s a look at TV ratings and viewers for MIS races since 2008.
(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)
Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s race, breaking a winless drought of nearly two years. Harvick held off Bubba Wallace on a restart with 35 laps to go to win.
The race had many twists and turns – including a massive Lap 26 crash that involved nine cars and took out Kyle Busch. There were 15 lead changes, as varying pit strategies mixed up the leaders.
RELATED: Kevin Harvick outduels dejected Bubba Wallace at MIS, breaks drought
The seas parted for Harvick. He was in sixth with 50 to go, before the drivers in front of him either crashed (Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain), had a pit road penalty (Denny Hamlin) or were shuffled back because of pit strategy (Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez) .
The race had the highest approval rating of any MIS race dating back to 2016, per the weekly poll from The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck, which gets thousands of votes from fans. The poll showed 90.7% of fans approved of Sunday’s race – the second-highest mark of the 2022 season.
The previous high for MIS in the “Was it a good race” poll was at the Saturday race in August 2020, when 77.3% of fans gave their approval.
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For an updated list of stories from MIS this NASCAR race weekend, click here.