The network TV debut of the race to set the field for NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup got off to a solid start for ABC.
In the first Nextel Cup Series race televised by ABC since July 2000, the network received a 4.2 fast national rating from Saturday night's Chevy Rock'n'Roll 400. The rating translated into a jump of more than 33 percent in households and 28 percent in viewership over last season's telecast, which was broadcast by TNT.
The change to network television likely accounts for at least some of the increase but ABC has seen other improvements across the board. The race delivered ABC its largest Saturday night audience since April, as well as its strongest audience in the 18-49 viewing group since December.
Additional ESPN research based off Nielsen Media Research data shows the ABC/ESPN partnership has seen a sizable growth for Nextel Cup Series races in TV markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.
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The Baltimore, Providence (R.I.) and New York City markets have all seen increases of more than 10 percent in viewership within the 18-54 demographic.
ABC will broadcast all 10 races in the Chase, beginning with Sunday's race at New Hampshire International Speedway.