The NHRA announced last week that its television ratings on ESPN2 were up 30 percent and household impressions are up 34% compared to the 2007 season. The number reflects Sunday race-day coverage through the first half of the 2008 season—Pomona to Norwalk—compared against the first half of the 2007 season. Thus far in 2008, the NHRA has averaged a 0.69 rating and 659,340 households on Sunday versus .53 and 490,357 households in 2007, with rating increases at 11 of the first 12 races,

"This illustrates what we've known all along, that the NHRA has a healthy, loyal and growing fan base," NHRA President Tom Compton said. "These numbers speak volumes about both the tremendous value proposition the NHRA offers to current and potential sponsors as well as the quality of the television broadcast."

NHRA officials point to a number of contributing factors, including additional promotional drop-ins on ESPN's family of networks, the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, a fast-paced format that is appealing to younger viewers, by far the most diverse drivers in motorsports, the consistent prime-time Eastern time zone slots on Sunday for its races, and a number of great storylines.

Among the storylines that have driven ratings are the return of NHRA legend John Force; the diversity of the winner's circle, including Ashley Force (first win by a woman in Funny Car), Melanie Troxel (first woman to win in Top Fuel and Funny Car), Hillary Will (first win in Top Fuel), Antron Brown (first year in Top Fuel after a successful Pro Stock Motorcycle career), and Tony Pedregon; and popular underdog Tim Wilkerson's remarkable rise from career journeyman to Funny Car points leader.

NHRA recently announced partnerships with global sports and entertainment firm IMG and public relations agency Edelman, as well as an extension through 2013 of its series sponsorship with the Coca-Cola companies that will include a rebranding of the series from POWERade to Full Throttle beginning in 2009.