Poll: Auto racing more popular in America than NBA and NHL

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Back when NASCAR was white-hot in the early to mid 2000s, there was plenty of talk about the stock car series having supplanted the National Hockey League (which, it must be noted, suffered a lockout in 2004-05) as the fourth major sport in America.

Since that point, NASCAR’s popularity has cooled off while the NHL has come around nicely after yet another stoppage in 2012-13. But a new Harris Poll has revealed that “auto racing” – not just NASCAR specifically, but auto racing in general – is not only more popular in the U.S. than the NHL, but the National Basketball Association as well.

In no surprise whatsoever, the poll (which was first reported on by ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell) found that the National Football League was the most popular sport in America among adults 18 years old and up. The NFL took 30 percent of the vote, followed by Major League Baseball with 14 percent, and NCAA college football with 11 percent.

Auto racing’s advantage over the NBA and NHL isn’t big, it must be said. Auto racing grabbed seven percent of the vote for the fourth position, while the NBA garnered six percent and the NHL, five percent.

The seven percent figure for auto racing is also down from the eight percent that the sport got in last year’s Harris Poll on the same subject.

One could interpret that as some sort of justification for the recent tinkering in NASCAR, which now has a new knockout qualifying format and could overhaul its Chase post-season and points system very soon.

According to Rovell’s report, the poll also notes – perhaps in an unflattering light in the eyes of some – that “those with a high school education or less tend to gravitate to auto racing.”

I’ll just say that there are many highly educated fans within the sport as well, and leave it at that.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.