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Poll: Auto racing popularity lags behind other major American sports

Tom Pennington

What do auto racing, soccer, tennis and golf have in common?

All received less than 5 percent in a recent poll asking Americans to name their favorite sport.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Sunday found that football, not surprisingly, was far and away the national pastime in the United States (53 percent said it was their No. 1 sport to follow). Baseball was a distant second with 16 percent.

Basketball (11 percent) and hockey (6 percent) were next, but none of the other sports reached the 5 percent mark. The poll did not specifically name the percentage for auto racing but mentioned it along with soccer, golf and tennis.

You'd think that would be a concern for NASCAR. While the TV ratings for races have a consistent viewing audience – about 3.5-5.5 million each week, depending on the track and time of season – the popularity of racing lags behind even hockey, according to the poll.

So how does NASCAR change that? The only way to really move beyond niche sports like soccer, golf and tennis would be to dramatically overhaul many things about the sport: The schedule, the format/length of the races and the racing itself.

But with so many different interests within NASCAR, change is difficult. It certainly doesn't seem like a major shakeup will happen anytime soon, so look for the status quo to continue.

(Hat-tip: @SpeedFreaks)