After five years of declining television ratings in the Chase, NASCAR races on ESPN during the 2011 playoff have seen a significant increase over last season.
The latest numbers (ratings for both Talladega and Martinsville were released this week) have only continued that trend.
ESPN's telecast of the Talladega race jumped to a 3.9 rating over a 3.6 in 2010 – an increase of 8 percent – and the Martinsville race drew a 3.6 rating, an increase of 29 percent over last season's 2.8 rating.
Aside from the postponed Chicagoland Speedway race, no Chase race has had a lower rating than the same race last season.
Talladega had the highest viewership number of any Chase race so far, drawing 5.43 million people. That's even more than the Charlotte Motor Speedway race, which was broadcast on free TV (ABC instead of ESPN).
Every Chase race (except for Chicagoland) has drawn at least a 3.0 rating so far; only four of the 10 Chase races achieved that number last year.
Later start times, side-by-side commercials and an exciting playoff are all believed to be reasons contributing to the increased ratings.