Is the “Chase Elliott Effect” Real?  We’re About to Find Out..

I’ve hesitated to write this, waiting on more experienced media members to pick it up and run with the subject.  Since no one seems to want to discuss it, it’s about time someone said something about it.  So here goes!

Oh man!  

Everyone is talking about them.  Just look at those incredible 2024 viewership numbers:

Awesome!  We are on a roll!

The NETFLEX EFFECT!  The Schedule Stacking SuperSpeedways Effect!  The Atlanta Finish Effect!  Record breaking races!  Popular wins!  Social Media Spikes!  Going back to concrete at Bristol, Baby!  Content creator @IcyVert coming on-board!  Heck, even having Iowa’s Caitlin Clark record breaking performance as a race lead-in are all bringing those numbers up.  


Everything is working!  Everything is great!

Let the backslapping begin.

Woo Hoo!

We are SO back, Baby!

Or are we?

The one thing that has slipped under the radar is the “Chase Elliott Effect”.  

What is the “Chase Elliott Effect”?  

Simply put, fans tune in when their favorite driver races and tune out when they don’t.  

I’m not sure who first spotted it but a NASCAR viewership analyst I follow firstmentioned it last season at Vegas when Chase Elliott, the sport’s most popular driver had to miss the race due to injuries from a snowboarding accident and noticed a significant downturn in viewership numbers.  They continued to follow it throughout the season and when all the data was in and all the statistical analysis done, it proved out that the viewership losses in 2023 were a direct result of Chase missing races.

So, it’s real.  

And it’s not anything new.  We’ve seen it in other sports, most notably the PGA.  Tiger Woods plays-the numbers go up.  Tiger’s out – numbers go down.

Chase just happens to be NASCAR’s Tiger.

 Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 and Kaz Grala, driver of the #15, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2024 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

I don’t believe it!  I’m a fan and I watch!  Show me!  

Again, part of the “Chase Elliott Effect” is simply when Chase doesn’t race fans don’t tune in.  Here is a breakdown of the viewership numbers for the races Chase missed last year due to injury:


Note that in the last two columns the viewership numbers dropped in all of those races a minimum of 557,000 viewers.  

So you may be a fan and you may have watched and we thank you for that but over a half a million other fans each race chose to tune out.

The Richmond numbers had an additional factor of switching from FOX to FS1 which added to the losses.  There are all kinds of statistical tests that normalize such factors that are beyond my scope and skill here. These are just the numbers, but even if Richmond was discarded, all the races had the same minimum loss numbers and double-digit percentage losses.

Combined the total loss for these six races is 4.560 million viewers, resulting in overall double digit percentage losses. To put that into perspective that is more viewers who tuned out over that period than any single race on the list got viewed.


No wonder no one really talked about this last season.  I wonder if numbers like that contributed to FOX’s overall 10% loss in viewership last year?

But What About Now Since Chase Is Back? 

The second part of the “Chase Elliott Effect” is when he races, fans tune in.  Now that he’s back for 2024, let’s compare that to 2023 when he was out and see what that shows:


If these look familiar, these are the percentages that everyone is quick to celebrate and attribute the sport’s growth to NETFLIX and all the other effects noted above.  But the major factor that no one has acknowledge is the return of Chase Elliott to the circuit.

Together this resulted in a 2.490 million additional viewers.  Nice numbers for sure.  

But when the first set of numbers from Chase’s return were reported the analyst noted that the viewership in the first few races (last year) suffered because of Chase’s absence and do not be surprised to get a lot of “viewership is up over the last year” posts over the next few weeks.  

So far, that’s exactly what happened.

I realize everyone is excited, but folks might want to tap the brakes a bit on the celebrating and see how this all plays out before declaring “We’re back, Baby” and “Look what NETFLIX has done”.

2.490 million is great!   Why aren’t we back, Baby?  What’s the problem?

The problem is that the 2023 vs 2024 numbers compare 2023 viewership when Chase was out to 2024 when he was back.We’re already seen how the numbers suffer in his absence so it’s not a direct comparison.  Yes, that did result in positive numbers and Year-to-Year comparisons like that are normal, but to see what direction the sport is heading and how fast, we need to have an “Apples-to-Apples” comparison.  We need to compare 2022 when Chase was racing to 2024 when he returned.  That way we can see how all those effects mentioned earlier have impacted viewership.

An “Apples to Apples” comparison for the races run so far looks like this:


From this comparison you can see that of the four races run thus far, Atlanta had an impressive 543,000-viewership gain.  Chase returning to run on his Home Track had to have a big effect, but I suspect that the freshness of NETFLIX and the crashing finish at Daytona to lead in along with a host of other factors contributed – but will have to leave that to the real analysts to make that determination to the degree.  

Phoenix picked up a whopping 37,000 viewers, while Las Vegas and Bristol had 195,000 and 198,000 losses respectively.  

Atlanta saved things with its double-digitpercentage gain, Phoenix was less than 1% gain (flat) and Vegas and Bristol were in the -4% loss category.  

So basically, with Chase back (along with NETFLIX and all the other effects, plus removal of dirt at Bristol, not running on Easter and other factors) for these four races, viewership is only up a total of 187,000 viewers, not the 2.490 million everyone is gushing over.

Whaaat?  So where do we go from here?

There are two more races left in this first round of Chase misses-COTA and Richmond.  From 2022 to 2023 these races experienced .602 million and 1.655 million viewers losses respectively.  These were two of the largest losses in the six-race series.  Again, Richmond had a channel change during this period which contributed to the losses.  This year they also get the Easter date, which has always proven challenging.  But it will be interesting to see just how close the numbers come to the 3.731 and 3.958 million viewers who tuned in for 2022.

Martinsville should be the real test to see what an impact NETFLIX and all the other effects have as this is the first race in 2023 that Chase was back.  That, coupled with a schedule change had turned in a 333,000 gain from 2022 to 2023, a 17.67% gain overall.  So, it was on a rise anyway.  It will be interesting to see how the 2024 numbers stack up as we have eliminated Chase as a factor as he raced in all three seasons. That number should be telling.

Later in the season, the same comparisons need to be made on the 2023 Gateway results to see if similar trends show up for Chase’s one race suspension.  

What’s others think?

So far, the “Chase Elliott Effect”, though proven statistically valid is not getting a lot of traction.  Out of the Groove’s Eric Estepp mentions the “Chase Elliott Effect” in one of his videos but basically isn’t buying it… yet.  Tanner Marlar of Frontstretch gives it attention in his article.

NASCAR 101: Viewership is Up Across the Board For the Cup Series – But Why?  But doesn’t get into the weeds to see if it’s real for NASCAR or to what extent it may be impacting the numbers.  Only recently has Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, the man who normally is the first to break the viewership numbers mentioned Chasein his reports.  It looks like he’s at least dipping his toe into the waters.  There may be more out there I just haven’t encountered them yet.

Where it goes, or if it even goes, only time will tell.  But they have something to think about when they post.

Final Thoughts

This was an exercise in presentation of viewership numbers and not an in-depth statistical analysis.  An attempt to seewhere things are and where they may be going. Statistical adjustments for schedule changes, channel changes and other factors were beyond the scope of this exercise. There are tons of positive and negative factors influencing the numbers that can be statistically addressed, but it’s just not here.  These are the raw numbers.

The “when their favorite driver isn’t racing, their fans tune out” of the “Chase Elliott Effect” has been statistically confirmed.  The second part “their fans tune in when their favorite driver is racing” has yet to be proven and will require more data.

That said, it is a bit concerning that the gains from Chase’s return to Las Vegas and Bristol, along with all the other effects and factors did not cover the losses resulting from his absence in 2023.  Whether they’re 4.28% and 4.95% losses are significant and of concern will have to be determined by further analysis.  But negatives are rarely as good a positives and losses of nearly 400,000 viewers total should at least raise some eyebrows.  Are we seeing a “Kevin Harvick Effect” of the Happy fans who haven’t settled on a new driver and have tuned out?

COTA and Richmond will be interesting to see how they stack up with the new Aero package and all.  Can Richmond get the necessary bump from the new “Bristol Effect”?  Better tune in and find out.

Martinsville should be the true test to see just how much progress has been made and if the “viewership is up over the last year posts continue.

Like most things of late, if nothing else it should be an interesting ride.  So tune in and hang on!

Thanks for reading my nerdy ramblings.

Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

Photo Credit (cover): Chris Graythen / Getty Images


  1. David, this is an incredibly valuable story, but it’s one NASCAR will ignore because it’s counter to the “We’re BAAAAAACCKKKK!” scenario they’re pushing. How is this any different from what we saw with Gordon, Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. left? Well, mainly, they didn’t come back, but that’s only relevant for your analysis, which is spot on.

    NASCAR believes in “the show,” and that certainly sells, but you need more than one hook for success, and star personalities is another big factor. So were brand loyalty, local-hero-gets-a-shot, and several others that no longer have the power they once did, so you kind of need what’s left. Maybe the lack of these other former draws explains some of that loss of viewership between ’22 and ’24.

    This will be one of the articles I’ll remember from this year. Thanks for the effort.

    1. Thanks Frank! Appreciate your thoughts and comments.

      Wasn’t sure what to do with it and was concerned it was a little too “nerdy” but it was troubling that on the surface everything looks great but when you peel back another layer or two it may have a different look to it.

      Personally, I think NASCAR knew it all along, it was just downplayed. In a business so dependent on TV revenue a 10% drop in viewership would usually roll heads and the lowest viewership numbers in history would usually result in some changes. None occurred. That makes me think that they knew the cause of the drop in 23 and convinced everyone not to be concerned as it would correct itself in 24. They we banking it was going to bounce back in 24 and by only reporting YOY could report massive growth. Everyone would take it and run with it and no one would be the wiser or look any deeper. At least that’s the way it looks from these cheap seats.

      Plus, if you can get to the TV deal, things will change so much the game will reset and year to year comparisons will be almost meaningless, so you buy yourself a few more years in that model.

      If the growth is real… great! Hope it continues. Maybe I’m looking at things wrong, but I’m not seeing it though. Few more races should be telling.

      Thanks again for your comments.

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