CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR and politics tend to overlap.
President Donald Trump attended this year's Daytona 500 in February and served as the grand marshal for the event that opened the 2020 season. And Monday, the president offered an opinion on a recent incident involving NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace, who is Black.
Two weeks after NASCAR announced that a noose was found in the garage stall of Wallace's No. 43 team at Talladega Superspeedway, and a subsequent FBI investigation determined that the act was not a hate crime, Trump tweeted: "Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"
The end of the tweet referred to NASCAR's June 10 ban of the Confederate flag at races, a decision prompted by Wallace that the sanctioning body said it will enforce to make fans of all races and ethnicities feel comfortable at NASCAR events.
But the ban of the Confederate flag and what happened at Talladega have not caused NASCAR's "lowest ratings EVER!" as Trump claimed. According to FOX Sports, NASCAR viewership on the FOX networks is up 8% since returning from its coronavirus-related hiatus on May 17.
Despite numerous delays and postponements due to inclement weather since the sport returned amid the pandemic, television viewership and Nielsen ratings have not consistently dropped, nor have any changes been in direct correlation with the flag ban. Instead, Sunday's Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on NBC earned a 2.67 rating and 4.34 million viewers, according to NBC Sports. That viewership number is up 46% from last year's Brickyard 400 race, which aired in September at the same time as NFL games. It was the second-most viewed NASCAR race since the sport returned from hiatus due to the Pandemic. (NASCAR's return race at Darlington averaged 6.32 million viewers.)
After the ban was announced the morning before NASCAR's Cup Series race at Martinsville, television ratings on FS1 increased 16% compared to previous weeknight NASCAR Cup Race at Charlotte, according to FOX Sports. The second race at Charlotte was the lowest-rated NASCAR Cup Series race of the season -- a mid-week event postponed for inclement weather. Inclement weather also pushed Talladega from Sunday to Monday, and it was still the most-watched Monday NASCAR race since 2014 (other than the Daytona 500).
Trump's claim of a hoax contradicted information from NASCAR. In the wake of the FBI's findings, NASCAR president Steve Phelps repeatedly said that the discovery of the noose incident was not Wallace's fault, nor was it a "hoax."
"Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this," Phelps said after the investigation concluded. "Bubba Wallace has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity. It is offensive seeing anyone suggest otherwise, and frankly it's further evidence as to how far we still need to go as a society."
Phelps said that the driver had no knowledge of the pull rope tied like a noose until Phelps told Wallace about it himself, after NASCAR security inspected the entire garage area and officials discussed next steps.