With a little help from Mother Nature, NASCAR’s decision to move the rain delayed 2012 Daytona 500 to prime time Monday night scored big.
For the first time in NASCAR history, the Daytona 500 was rained out and moved to Monday. More weather forced NASCAR to move the race to later Monday and the race took the green flag until after 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. That move proved to be the right one as Fox Sports announced Monday that a total audience of over 36.5 million Americans watched the race, according to fast national ratings issued today by Nielsen Media Research, making 2012 Daytona 500 the most-watched in FOX history.
The 36.5 million total viewers, a measure of the audience that saw at least a portion of the race, is +22% higher than last year’s total audience of 30 million and +22% better than 2010’s 29.8 million. Yesterday’s total audience is the second best ever for a Daytona 500 on any network behind 37.0 million viewers in 2006 on NBC.
The NASCAR on FOX crew started reporting on Sunday from the rainy Daytona International Speedway 12:00 – 5:15 p.m. Eastern in the hopes of a window opening up for racing. FOX Sports produced nearly the entire five hours live, including interviews with drivers who came to the Hollywood Hotel pre-race set and in their haulers, as well as NASCAR officials in the booth, only briefly going to a replay of the end of the Budweiser Shootout and clips from SPEED’s Top Ten Daytona 500 Moments. The team was back again at 7:00 PM ET the next night for the Monday primetime running of the Daytona 500.
The race which included a fiery crash caused when Juan Pablo Montoya hit a safety truck/track-drying engine and red flagged the race for over two hours, earned an 8.0/14 rating/share and averaged 13.7 million viewers. While down slightly from last year’s Sunday afternoon race that occurred without any significant delays, (-8%, 2011 Daytona 500 – 8.7/20), Monday night’s race was up +4% when compared to the 2010 event (7.7/16), which saw lengthy delays for pothole repairs to the track.
Ratings for the 2012 Daytona 500 grew gradually through the first two and a half hours, climbing to an 8.2/12 (14.2 million viewers) in the 9:30 half-hour when the Montoya wreck occurred. Ratings grew further at 10:00 PM, peaking at an 8.8/13 (15.1 million viewers.) When the race was over, Matt Kenseth emerged as the winner, capturing his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.
With the ratings success such as this, NASCAR will no doubt look at a similar scenario in the future, making the 2012 Daytona 500 the first, but perhaps not the last NASCAR race in prime time.
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