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On Monday morning, President Trump tweeted that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace should apologize “to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX,” and that NASCAR’s June 10 ban of Confederate flags at its events “has caused lowest ratings EVER.”
The first part of Trump’s tweet refers to the incident on June 21, when a rope tied like a noose was discovered hanging in Wallace’s stall before the Geico 500 at Talladega Speedway in Alabama. That race was delayed one day due to weather, and before the race began on Monday, the entire field of drivers rallied behind Wallace, pushing his car to the start line in a show of solidarity. A few days later, the FBI announced that the rope, a garage door pull, had been there since October, before the stall was ever assigned to Wallace, so no federal crime was committed; it also released a photo of the noose. There was no “hoax”—the sport merely responded to what looked at first like a hate crime—and Wallace never saw or reported the noose; it was found and reported by a member of his team.
The second part of Trump’s tweet, about NASCAR’s TV ratings, is completely false.
NASCAR ratings on Fox are up 8% since the sport’s return from coronavirus lockdown on May 17, according to Fox Sports EVP Michael Mulvihill, and are up 8% since the Confederate flag ban on June 10, Mulvihill says.
The first race after the Confederate flag ban, on the afternoon of June 10, was the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The overnight ratings on FS1 were up 104% compared to the same race (11th of the season) last year, which also aired on FS1. Later, once the final numbers were in, Fox Sports said the bump was 113%.
The June 14 NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida averages a total audience of 2.77 million viewers (non-weather-delayed portions), up 27% from the comparable Cup Series race (12th of the season) last year.
The Geico 500 at Talladega on June 22, which was moved to Monday due to weather, registered 3.36 million viewers, 20% better than the Homestead-Miami race the week before, but down 21% from last year’s 13th race of the season.
The June 28 race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania grabbed 2.66 million viewers, up 11% from the June 2 Pocono race last year.
In fact, every NASCAR race on Fox since the Confederate flag ban, except for Talladega on June 22, has rated higher than the equivalent race the year before.
This past weekend, NASAR shifted to NBC for a crossover event with IndyCar, and those two Nascar races were up from last year as well. According to NBC Sports, Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 race averaged 1.69 million viewers, making it the most-watched Xfinity Series race from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2017, and up 21% compared to the average of the four Xfinity Series races on NBC last year. Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 averaged 4.37 million viewers, up 46% compared to the same race last year.
Whether the extra eyeballs are because of the controversial Confederate flag ban or despite it, or whether it’s all thanks to the current dearth of live sports to watch, is up for debate. But the sport is enjoying a clear ratings bump over last year.
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and focuses on sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.