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Where Is NASCAR Most Popular? (The Numbers)

NASCAR is a motorsport that enjoys popularity nationwide. Though it does take place around the entire country, its popularity varies between states, cities, and regions. We need to look at a wide range of demographics to determine where NASCAR is most popular. 

NASCAR is most popular in America’s Southeast. While Charlotte, North Carolina is the most prominent major metropolitan area for NASCAR fans to live, other hotspot cities in the Southeast include Roanoke, Virginia (32% of people are fans), Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Below, we will reveal in which states NASCAR is the most and the least popular. We will also check out the seven cities where NASCAR enjoys more popularity than anywhere else, before discussing whether NASCAR boasts popularity in other countries. 

Where Is NASCAR Popular?

NASCAR is most popular in the Southeast, especially in North Carolina and Florida. NASCAR’s roots lay in the Southeastern United States, and because of this fact, this is where the sport is most popular. Cities in these states often claim their population is more than 20% NASCAR fans.

When you look at North American sports, you will notice that they are most popular in places that field a team or a major event. For example, the city of Omaha, Nebraska, would be a hotbed for college baseball since they host the College World Series. Shift gears to the NFL, where states like Ohio that have two professional football teams would count as a popular destination for the sport. 

The South Eastern States

In 2018, Nielsen Scarborough conducted a study to determine which areas in the United States were the most popular for NASCAR fans to live, and it should serve as no surprise that nearly half came from North Carolina, Virginia, and Northern Florida

Regionally, the Appalachian Mountains can claim the highest NASCAR popularity nationwide. Regions that scored in the top ten include Roanoke-Lynchburg, Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Greenville-Spartanburg, SC, Asheville, NC, Anderson, SC. Nearby Richmond-Petersburg was also on the list. 

We also need to account for proximity to tracks. Just because a state doesn’t have a track, there may be several in nearby states. Those states may boast more fan support for NASCAR over states that have both no tracks located within 300 miles. This is why NASCAR’s search interest is sky-high in West Virginia, as it’s close to lots of tracks but has none to call its own.

In Which State Is NASCAR Most Popular?

NASCAR is most popular in its home state of North Carolina. Cities like Charlotte (about 27%) and Winston-Salem (roughly 26%) have large proportions of their populations that claim to be NASCAR fans. Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and it’s where many drivers live as well.

However, many drivers come from California. This means the Golden State has a vibrant fanbase too, especially with tracks like Auto Club and Sonoma making their homes there. But Nielsen’s study showed that NASCAR really isn’t entirely popular out west, with no regions west of the Mississippi River ranking in its top 10. 

Roanoke-Lynchburg in Virginia has the highest proportion of NASCAR fans as a share of its total population at 32%

While Virginia may have the city with the highest proportion of fans, Roanoke-Lynchburg’s population of about 100,000 people is far smaller than Charlotte’s 870,000, meaning Charlotte has the numbers in its favor. 

But Google Trends shows that NASCAR is also extremely popular in West Virginia. While search interest alone doesn’t indicate sheer popularity, it’s a useful metric for comparing interest across other states too. When we consider NASCAR’s search interest over the last 5 years, we can decipher where in the US the sport is the most and least popular. 

10 States Where NASCAR Is Most Popular

StateSearch InterestActive NASCAR Tracks
North Carolina1001
West Virginia970
Vermont880
South Carolina851
Iowa791 (Truck Series only)
Maine760
Delaware751
Indiana712 (1 for Truck Series only)
Tennessee702
South Dakota690

Despite having no NASCAR Cup Series tracks, West Virginia has one of the highest search interest scores in the country

How To Interpret The Table Above

The number in the ‘Search Interest’ column is essentially a score that takes into account the relative number of searches for the term ‘NASCAR’ in a given region (Indiana, for example) compared to the total number of searches in that region. It then compares this to the other regions (i.e. the other 49 states plus the District of Columbia) to give a comparative score. 

If a state has a search interest of 100 (like North Carolina does), and another state has a search interest figure of 25 (like Washington does in the table a bit later on in this article), this means the proportion of searches for ‘NASCAR’ in North Carolina was four times higher than the proportion of searches for ‘NASCAR’ in Washington

In numbers, it may look something like this:

North Carolina

  • Total searches for any term = 200,000
  • Total searches for ‘NASCAR’ = 20,000
  • Percentage of searches that were for ‘NASCAR’ = 10% 

Washington

  • Total searches for any term = 100,000
  • Searches for ‘NASCAR’ = 2,500
  • Percentage of searches that were for ‘NASCAR’ = 2.5% 

Since North Carolina’s share of the total searches for the term ‘NASCAR’ was four times bigger than that of Washington, it has a search interest score four times bigger too. As we’re comparing 51 regions here, there are lots of different scores. For example, WV’s score of 100 is 1.03 times bigger than NC’s 97, meaning it is only slightly more searched for in that state.

Note that the score is independent of the total number of searches or the total number of searches for ‘NASCAR.’ The score only takes into account the ratio between the two numbers, meaning a state may have far lower search volume in total, but if its share of searches for ‘NASCAR’ is much higher, it’ll have a bigger score. 

NOTE: You may find different numbers depending on when you search for the data, and the time range you use for your data

Anyway, that’s enough about how we get the numbers – where is NASCAR not so popular?

In Which State Is NASCAR Least Popular?

NASCAR is typically least popular in states where it has no presence, but this is not always the case. While the sport is unpopular in Hawaii as the state has no NASCAR presence at all, it’s also fairly unpopular in California, despite NASCAR’s multiple tracks there.

10 States Where NASCAR Is Least Popular

StateSearch InterestActive NASCAR Tracks
Hawaii110
California203
Texas242
Utah250
Louisiana260
Washington270
Massachusetts 270
Alaska270
New Jersey 280
New Mexico290

It may seem odd to see California on the list, considering it is home to 3 tracks and is not far from the Phoenix Raceway in Arizona. But with California being such a large state and its tracks concentrated in the southern portion, popularity may wane the further north you go. Texas is likely subject to a similar phenomenon, just as a result of the sheer size of the state and its population.

As for the rest of the entries on this table, it’s not too surprising as they don’t have any NASCAR tracks to call their own. It’s also worth noting that, even though we’re dealing with states here, the District of Columbia actually comes out ahead of Hawaii in terms of search interest with a score of 14! 

The 7 Best Cities To Live In For NASCAR Fans

The 7 best cities to live in for NASCAR fans are:

  1. Charlotte, North Carolina
  2. Indianapolis, Indiana
  3. Louisville, Kentucky
  4. Roanoke, Virginia
  5. Orlando, Florida
  6. Toledo, Ohio 
  7. Jacksonville, Florida 

1. Charlotte, North Carolina

Population: 875,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 6

Charlotte and NASCAR go hand in hand. One reason Charlotte is the most popular city for NASCAR fans is because all chartered NASCAR Cup Teams and all but one non-chartered team hold their headquarters here. You can’t walk down the street for 10 minutes in Charlotte without seeing a nod to NASCAR. 

And if you venture outside the city limits just a little, you will run into a few nearby headquarters for NASCAR organizations and teams. You will find most of these drivers and organizations in the large town of Mooresville just 25 miles north of Charlotte. Even its nickname, Race City USA, serves as a nod to NASCAR. It is even home to the NASCAR Technical Institute. 

Even if you can’t live in Charlotte, you need to make a pilgrimage here and nearby Mooresville. The city is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Other automotive-related museums include the Historical Automotive Museum and the Memory Lane Museum. 

Nearby NASCAR Tracks

NASCAR’s home track, the Charlotte Motor Speedway, is the nearest track. Two former NASCAR tracks near Charlotte include the Rockingham Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway. But since they no longer hold NASCAR events, the Charlotte Motor Speedway is the place to be if you are looking to attend an event in the state.

Nearby tracks include:

  • Charlotte Motor Speedway – 13 miles
  • Darlington Raceway – 92 miles 
  • Martinsville Speedway – 128 miles
  • Bristol Motor Speedway – 158 miles
  • Atlanta Motor Speedway – 279 miles
  • Richmond Raceway – 299 miles 

2. Indianapolis, Indiana

Population: 870,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 3

When you think of Indianapolis, you immediately think of auto racing. In fact, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers are named for the pace cars that ran for the Indianapolis 500. However, IndyCar’s home has also become a NASCAR hotbed in recent years. 

Nielsen’s Scarborough study saw that in the Indianapolis area, 25.2% of residents watched or listened to NASCAR. That’s just 1.7% lower than the 26.9% of people polled in Charlotte. The city also hosted the Brickyard 400, one of NASCAR’s Crown Jewel Races between 1994 and 2020. 

Despite the Brickyard 400 losing its popularity between 2008 and 2020, Indianapolis remains a hotbed for NASCAR fans because of its many tracks in proximity. NASCAR also still holds races at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but with the road course configuration. 

Nearby NASCAR Tracks

NASCAR used to race at Chicagoland and Kentucky, which were located 181 miles and 120 miles from Indianapolis. As of 2022, NASCAR has stopped racing at these tracks. However, they do race at Michigan, located 225 miles from Indianapolis. From 2023, NASCAR will also be racing through the streets of Chicago, less than 200 miles from Indianapolis. 

Nearby tracks include:

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway – 5 miles 
  • Michigan International Speedway – 225 miles
  • World Wide Technology Raceway – 238 miles

3. Louisville, Kentucky

Population: 620,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 3

Louisville is the first city on this list that does not have a NASCAR Cup Series track within its city limits. Horse racing may be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Louisville, thanks to the Kentucky Derby. 

However, there are a few nods to the automotive industry in Louisville. One of which is the National Corvette Museum. The Bowling Green Assembly Plant, home of the Chevy Corvette, is also in Louisville. 

One major reason Louisville has such a strong NASCAR is because of its proximity to 2 historic NASCAR tracks, Indianapolis and Bristol. While NASCAR did not race at Indianapolis until 1994, its history in the auto racing industry dates back to the turn of the 20th century. 

Nearby NASCAR Tracks

The former NASCAR track, Chicagoland, is about 300 miles away. Louisville once had a track that they could technically consider to be a home track at the Kentucky Speedway, located 63 miles away. However, NASCAR ran its final race there for the time being in 2020. 

Nearby tracks include:

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway – 127 miles
  • World Wide Technology Raceway – 258 miles
  • Bristol Motor Speedway – 300 miles

4. Roanoke, Virginia

Population: 100,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 5

Easily the smallest city on the list, Roanoke is an outstanding NASAR hotbed if you aren’t up for the hustle and bustle associated with large metropolitan areas. This small city is also a hot choice to live in if you are also into regional stock car racing, as it hosts plenty of events. 

And while Roanoke has no home NASCAR track, they do have 5 tracks within 300 miles. We all have a home away from home, and Roanoke may be NASCAR’s. Research conducted in 2018 shows that Roanoke had the highest concentration of NASCAR fans at 32 percent. 

NASCAR Tracks Near Roanoke

Roanoke has many tracks within 300 miles. While the NASCAR Cup Series has no plans to return to North Wilkesboro or Rockingham, if they did, Roanoke would be in proximity to another 2 tracks in North Carolina. 

Nearby tracks include:

  • Martinsville Speedway – 57 miles
  • Bristol Motor Speedway – 156 miles
  • Charlotte Motor Speedway – 169 miles
  • Richmond Raceway – 187 miles
  • Darlington – 237 miles

5. Orlando, Florida

Population: 285,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 2

Orlando may only have 2 tracks near it, but this large metro area located just 50 miles west of Daytona Beach. Florida has not forgotten its regional roots to NASCAR. 

With the famed Daytona International Speedway located so close to Orlando, it is a safe bet that many local residents attend the event itself or they at least engage in the Speedweeks Festivities that occur in January and February each year. Orlando is located closer to central Florida than Daytona, which puts it closer to the Homestead-Miami Speedway too. 

Nearby tracks include:

  • Daytona International Speedway – 50 miles
  • Homestead-Miami Speedway – 264 miles

6. Toledo, Ohio

Population: 275,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 2

Ohio is one of those states most associated with football, serving as the home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Northwest Ohio’s sports culture is a little different, given Toledo’s proximity to several NASCAR tracks. Research showed that Toledo had the seventh highest concentration of NASCAR fans in 2018, sitting just behind Richmond, Virginia. 

The Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA) has its headquarters in Toledo. And given its affiliation to NASCAR, it is easy to see why Toledo has become such a famous town for fans to call home. 

NASCAR Tracks Near Toledo

The Toledo Raceway may not hold an event in NASCAR’s top 3 series. However, ARCA Menards East holds a 200-mile race there in May. NASCAR fans in Toledo suffered an unfortunate loss when the Cup Series stopped hosting events at the Kentucky Speedway, which sits 243 miles from the city. But if you are a Toledo resident and you want to catch a NASCAR race in person, you don’t need to go too far. 

Nearby tracks include:

  • Michigan International Speedway – 61 miles
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway – 227 miles

7. Jacksonville, Florida

Population: 900,000 | Tracks Within 300 Miles: 2

Jacksonville’s proximity to Daytona Beach alone makes it a viable hometown for NASCAR fans. While Jacksonville does not have many regional ties to NASCAR or auto racing, 2018 research showed that 22.1% of residents either watched or listened to NASCAR events. 

NASCAR Tracks Near Jacksonville

Daytona International Speedway is just 91 miles away. 

The Homestead-Miami Speedway sits 382 miles away. This is a long drive, but the view of the Atlantic Ocean might take your mind off the Florida heat as you cruise down the coast. The Darlington Raceway is located 402 miles from Jacksonville, which is another long drive but certainly worth it for many NASCAR fans. 

Nearby tracks include:

  • Daytona International Speedway – 91 miles
  • Atlanta Motor Speedway – 295 miles 

Is NASCAR Popular In Other Countries?

NASCAR isn’t as popular in other countries as it is in the USA. NASCAR has a presence in Mexico, Canada, and across Europe. NASCAR has successfully attempted to increase popularity elsewhere, but it still has a long way to go to match Formula 1’s global popularity. 

Some sports have seen their popularity skyrocket in countries not native to their own. Clearly, association football leads in worldwide popularity. But scaling things down to America, many sports have seen their popularity achieve worldwide fandom

The NFL has made leaps and bounds in other countries. The NBA and NHL have had the same luxuries. However, NASCAR has not grown in popularity like the aforementioned sports. The NFL continues to break its own records while the NBA and NHL have made strides since the turn of the 21st century. 

NASCAR Pintys, Whelan, And Mexico Series

NASCAR has expanded its racing brand into Canada, Europe, and Mexico with its Pintys (Canada), Whelen (Europe), and the Mexico Series. These cars strongly resemble Cup Series cars, but with their own specifications. They also race on tracks that are popular among their respective fan bases. In Mexico and Canada, you see more oval tracks, while the Whelen Series mainly races on road courses. Predominately 

In 2022, NASCAR and the Pinty’s Series signed an extension said to last until 2026. The extension indicates that the series is growing in popularity among Canadian audiences, as otherwise NASCAR likely wouldn’t bother with the series north of the border. 

NASCAR Cup Series Popularity 

While NASCAR’s popularity is not what it once was, the Cup Series is busy maximizing the NASCAR brand worldwide. It has become available in almost 200 countries and expanded its reach to over 500 million households across the globe. This comes from partnerships NASCAR made with major television networks worldwide. Some of which include Tencent in China, Viasat in Sweden, and Discovery in India. 

These deals provide further indication that NASCAR’s popularity is growing to a global audience. Regardless of the country, the end goal is always the same: to bring in television revenue. Clearly, these major networks located in different parts of the globe believe NASCAR will help them do that. 

It shows that there is a demand to watch NASCAR Cup Series racing in Europe and Asia. And since there is a demand, there is popularity outside the United States

Final Thoughts

NASCAR is the most popular in the state of North Carolina, which is no surprise given the Hall of Fame is there along with many teams’ headquarters, and there are many tracks nearby. The most popular region for NASCAR is Appalachia. Hawaii remains the least popular state for NASCAR.