One of the first reactions to news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would miss NASCAR's race at Charlotte last Saturday was this: What impact will the absence of NASCAR's most popular driver have on the TV ratings?
As it turned out, apparently not much.
ABC's broadcast of the Charlotte race earned a 3.2 rating – the third consecutive year it has gotten that number. However, the average amount of viewers was 5.095 million people, which was down by 300,000 from last year.
It's impossible to say whether those 300,000 tuned out because of Earnhardt Jr.'s absence or for other reasons. Other Chase races – ones that Earnhardt Jr. drove in – have also had declines in year-to-year viewership.
As for the Nationwide Series, ESPN earned a 1.2 rating, which was up from 1.1 at last year's Charlotte race. That broadcast averaged 1.5 million viewers throughout the course of the event.