NASCAR speeding to the top

Tampa is one of the largest sports markets in the country today. The city is home for teams in football, baseball, ice hockey and arena football.

It’s obvious fan support for teams like the Buccaneers, Lightning and Devil Rays would exist in the bay area, but another major sport is growing in numbers of fan support.

NASCAR ratings and fan-base are continuing to climb in Tampa, making the city one of the largest markets for the fast-paced stock car races.

NASCAR television ratings rose 23 percent in 2002, the third largest jump for a major city behind Sacramento and Chicago.

“NASCAR is benefiting from phenomenal TV exposure thanks to hard work and innovative coverage provided by our broadcast partners,” NASCAR Vice President/Broadcasting Paul Brooks said. “Over the last several seasons, the Tampa market has emerged as one of NASCAR’s strongholds.”

Through 35 races in 2002, NASCAR enjoyed a 146,000 household viewership average in Tampa, the third largest number in the nation.

Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of communications said the Tampa ratings comes as no surprise because of the area’s rich racing history. He said the recent television numbers show “that Tampa is a racing hotbed.”

Contrary to what people believe, NASCAR fans are not all men. In fact, 40 percent of fans are women.

Thirty-two percent of fans are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 42 percent of those fans earn more than $50,000 a year.

These numbers indicate that college and universities incorporate a good number of NASCAR fans. And, for those college students unaware or uninterested in NASCAR racing, NASCAR Busch Series driver Greg Biffle offered a suggestion that may spark some interest about the sport.

Biffle, who won the Busch Series title this year and the Craftsman Truck Series title in 2000, said that if people give the sport a chance they might like what they see.

“Just turn the TV on, or come out to a race,” Biffle said. “It’s a great sport. It’s so exciting just to see it.”

“What we do sells itself,” he said.