As hundreds of thousands fill the stands of the Daytona International Speedway, its parking lots and, this year, even the oval’s infield, we’re reminded that the NASCAR season kicks off again with its biggest event, the Daytona 500. Though certain swaths of the country seem impervious to the allure of fast cars, NASCAR remains the largest spectator sport in the country and the second-highest regular season sport in terms of television ratings. It brings in $1 billion a year from licensed merchandise alone. Some hotspots are predictable—Indianapolis, Charlotte, Des Moines—but others may be surprising. (Any Dale Jr. fans in Oklahoma City?)
Gallery: Ranking America’s 20 NASCAR Capitals, From Charlotte to Flint
With the Great American Race just two days away, The Daily Beast ranked NASCAR hotspots across the country to determine which has the most dedicated fans.
To rank the passion-for-cars capitals, we considered which has the largest population of self-professed fans and the greatest number of residents who attend NASCAR races, wear their passion on their sleeve (literally) or stay apprised of NASCAR news online. For this data, we used the following statistics for nearly 100 metro areas:
• Total fans by vicinity, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing, a sports marketing firm. Fans, as a percentage of the total population, were measured by a nationwide survey in 2010 of adults who defined themselves as “very, somewhat, or a little bit interested” in NASCAR. This category was weighted double in the final tabulation. • Event attention, as measured by the percentage of the population that watched NASCAR events on television in the last year, according to Experian Simmons, a leading market research firm. • Online interest, represented by the relative searches for NASCAR in the last 12 months, according to Google Insights for Search, a tool which enables search volume comparisons. As well, we considered the percentage of the population that went to Nascar.com in the last 30 days according to Experian Simmons. • Merchandise sales, according to the percentage of the population who bought NASCAR licensed apparel in the last year, according to Experian Simmons.