NASCAR has company as the preferred auto racing sport in the U.S. thanks to the rise of the “Drive To Survive” era of Formula 1 racing.
The rival auto-racing brands have amassed ballooning fanbases, but that hasn’t translated into a presence in the national sports betting marketplace. Yet.
Matthew Stallknecht, senior business development executive at Tipico Sportsbook, sees the “still-immature U.S. sports betting market” as the reason U.S. auto-racing bettors are under-represented in American sportsbooks.
North Carolina, home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, numerous NASCAR race teams and some of the most famous NASCAR drivers in history, could shift this trend when online sports betting launches.
European betting markets predict an increase in U.S. auto-race betting
Auto-race betting in Europe outpaces its American counterpart by a wide margin.
This is, in part, due to the popularity of auto racing–both F1 and MotoGP–in Western Europe, compared to NASCAR and IndyCar racing in the United States.
However, Stallknecht thinks U.S. auto-race betting will eventually align with Western Europe in terms of the market share it takes.
“As the U.S. market matures,” Stallknecht explains, “popular sports like NASCAR that are historically under-served by betting operators will eventually see volumes which more closely reflect their overall popularity in the country.”
At the moment, NASCAR betting captures a little more than .5% of the total U.S. betting market, per Joe Solosky, executive director of sports betting at NASCAR. While F1 data is not available, it very likely accounts for the same or a smaller percentage of the overall U.S. market.
North Carolina online sports betting, which will launch some time in 2024, will enter into a market that Stallknecht sees as “still immature” and “biased almost entirely to football betting.”
In this market, Stallknecht sees auto-race bettors inaccurately reflected in the products sportsbook operators have on offer. As a result, the burgeoning auto-racing fanbase hasn’t made the shift to the sports betting industry that they ultimately will.
North Carolina sports betting could “right size” auto-race betting market
In an immature market, sports fandom does not translate into betting volume. That’s why U.S. sportsbooks lean so heavily on established sports juggernauts like the NFL and March Madness.
However, as states like North Carolina, which has a huge NASCAR fanbase, launch, betting volume will better reflect fandom. Stallknecht sees this as the chronology sports betting industries traverse.
“On a long enough timeline,” Stallknecht says, “the share of betting volume in mature sports betting markets tend to more closely reflect the share of viewership for sports in said market.”
For reference, this year’s Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway recorded 4.06 million viewers, the Miami Grand Prix Formula 1 race had 1.96 million viewers and the clinching game in the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Finals had 2.6 million viewers.
Despite approaching and sometimes eclipsing NHL hockey in viewership, auto-racing hasn’t reached anything near hockey’s betting popularity. And this has more to do with betting products on offer for auto racing than it does with the sport itself.
Stallknecht believes that “operators [will] figure out how to market their betting offerings on the sport more effectively and efficiently” as the industry evolves.
Will North Carolina take pole position in NASCAR betting?
When North Carolina launches online sports betting in time for the 2024 Coca Cola 600 at CMS, Stallknecht and others believe that auto-race betting will have a number of new and exciting ways for betting fans to engage with the sport.
Whether that comes in the form of live-betting offers or bracket-style bets, North Carolinians will likely push operators to better represent the auto-racing market through their NASCAR betting products.
As Stallknecht puts it, “the delta between people who watch NASCAR and those who bet on it” will begin to close, and North Carolina could lead that change.
Image Credit: Matt Kelley / AP Images