In Which States Is NASCAR The Most Popular?

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 08: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 DEWALT Plumbing Solutions Toyota, Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Aguas Frescas Chevrolet, and Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 Leidos Toyota, race to start the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 08, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

NASCAR is obviously popular around the United States and hosts motorsport events all around the country. But some states love it more than others – and other states love it way more than others.

The stock car racing trend is more popular in the southeastern parts of the U.S. North Carolina is the largest metropolitan area where NASCAR enthusiasts live, but there are other cities such as Roanoke Virginia where 32 percent of the population are reported to be fans, while there’s also a huge following in Orlando and Jacksonville in Florida, as well as Louisville Kentucky.

Of course, Kentucky doesn’t compare to the likes of North and South Carolina, West Virginia, or Vermont. But it is home to a whole lot of racing fanatics and used to be able to boast its Kentucky Speedway just a few years ago. The venue has been closed to racing since 2022, and whether or not it will reopen its doors to NASCAR remains to be seen.

The Kentucky Speedway started hosting races in 2001 but poor attendance and a lack of profits saw the track getting dropped from the Cup Series schedule. Races were discontinued in 2022 but, given the legalization of sports betting in KY, sports engagement could soon be at an all-time high and just might get NASCAR to come back. The sports betting promotions in Kentucky would be wild, given the state’s interest in college basketball, football, and horse racing. Add NASCAR back to that and it could cause a real shakeup.

So where is NASCAR really popular? As noted above, it’s beloved in the southeastern states, with cities in the region having claimed that over 20 percent of their population is made up of NASCAR.

Of course, NASCAR trails other sports around the country. Most North American residents are fans of a sport that involves either a ball, a field, or both. California has multiple basketball and football teams, while Ohio also has two football outfits. The city of Omaha, Nebraska is big on college baseball as it hosts the College World Series.

A Nielsen Scarborough study from 2018 found that North Carolina, Virginia, and Northern Florida contained the most NASCAR fans.

On a regional scale, the Appalachian Mountains can boast the biggest NASCAR following, with Roanoke-Lynchburg, Greensboro High Point, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC, Asheville, NC, Anderson, SC, and Richmond-Petersburg also ranked highly.

A state doesn’t require a track to have plenty of NASCAR fans as they flock to nearby states just for races. West Virginia, for example, is in close proximity to multiple tracks but cannot claim one of its own.

Cities such as Charlotte and Winston-Salem have lots of people residing therein who claim to be NASCAR fans – 27 percent and 26 percent, respectively. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is in Charlotte and plenty of drivers live there too.

A lot of drivers live in California, though, with tracks such as Auto Club and Sonoma located therein. According to Nielsen’s study, NASCAR isn’t all that popular on the West Coast and no areas west of the Mississippi rank in the top 10 as it pertains to support for stock car racing.

Virginia has the highest proportion of fans but Roanoke-Lynchburg has a smaller population than Charlotte, with 100,000 to 870,000. Google Trends indicates that NASCAR is very popular in West Virginia and, while search interest doesn’t necessarily translate directly to fans, it is a good metric for determining interest across states.

Despite NASCAR’s popularity in the southeastern parts of the U.S., the sport has seen a decline in viewership and attendance in recent years. This is partly due to the rise of other sports and entertainment options, as well as changes in the sport itself. NASCAR has made efforts to attract new fans by implementing new rules and technologies, but it remains to be seen whether these changes will be enough to reverse the decline.

In any case, NASCAR continues to have a dedicated fan base, with millions of people tuning in to watch races and attending events across the country. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just a casual observer, there’s no denying the excitement and energy that surrounds this iconic American sport.