NBC's coverage of the July 15 inaugural Tropicana 400 at the new Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois was watched by 21 million viewers. The Tropicana 400 earned a 5.6 national rating and 14 share, according to figures released July 17 by Nielsen Media Research. There is no ratings comparison as this was an open date on the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule in 2000. The 5.6 national rating is the best NASCAR Winston Cup afternoon delivery for races from May through November since the inaugural running of the Brickyard 400 from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, August 6, 1994 on ABC. Through its first two races, NASCAR on NBC is averaging a 5.8 rating and 14 share. The national rating peaked with a 6.6 during the final 15 minutes from 6-6:15 p.m. ET as rookie Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag for the second time this season after taking over for Dale Earnhardt after his tragic death at the Daytona 500, February 18. "The fact that 21 million people watched our inaugural Tropicana 400 race speaks volumes about the popularity of NASCAR and the Chicago metropolitan area's integral part in the growth and development of the sport," said Joie Chitwood, vice president and general manager of Chicagoland speedway. For the second consecutive week NASCAR on NBC has attracted more than 20 million viewers. Last Saturday's Pepsi 400 attracted a primetime record 25 million viewers. Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series race from Chicagoland Speedway earned a 2.2 national rating and 7 share. There is also no ratings comparison as this was an open date on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule in 2000. The Tropicana 400 was the second NASCAR Winston Cup race in NBC and TNT's new six-year agreement with NASCAR to telecast "The Race for the Championship" over the second half of the NASCAR season. Through 20 races in 2001, Jeff Gordon (1998, '97, '95 Champion) and Dale Jarrett (1999 Champion) are tied in points for the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship. Ricky Rudd is a mere 18 points behind in third-place. NASCAR coverage continues on TNT this weekend with the NASCAR Busch Series Carquest Auto Parts 250 on Saturday, July 21 at 8 p.m. ET and the New England 300 NASCAR Winston Cup race on Sunday, July 22 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
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