"This is the first accurate snapshot of what college kids are watching," Hill says. "The households might be down a tad,
but what you're looking for is what's happening with the younger audience ... Show me another sport that's growing like that among younger viewers."
Even with the decline, Fox's 5.8 average rating for NASCAR is a strong number. And overall, prime-time TV viewing is down 11% percent year over year, notes one media buyer. "I don't see any alarms ringing yet," says Larry Novenstern, executive vice president for media buying agency Optimedia. NASCAR's ratings have grown exponentially for several years. A downturn is inevitable."