For the first time in its 54-year history the Daytona 500 was delayed for a full day by rain. That sent Fox scrambling to rework its schedule, but in the end the premier NASCAR event produced big ratings in primetime on Monday.
It took 36 hours to complete from its scheduled start time but fans won’t soon forget the 2012 Daytona 500 and the dramatic events delivered for Fox Sports, the network said in reporting the Nielsen ratings tally.
A total audience of over 36.5 million Americans watched Monday night’s race, according to fast national ratings issued Tuesday 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. The total audience is the second best ever for a Daytona 500 on any network behind 37.0 million viewers in 2006 on NBC.
Fox said it won the primetime night among Adults 18-49 and total audience figures, a significant achievement going up against original episodes of popular network programs like ABC’s The Bachelor, CBS’s How I Met Your Mother and NBC’s The Voice, which was -10% lower in the Adults 18-49 demographic last night than it did a week ago. The Daytona 500 on Fox posted a 4.6 and averaged 14.1 million viewers from 8:00 – 11:00 pm ET, making it Fox’s most-watched Monday night in 16 months, dating back to Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.
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 epic race concluded, Matt Kenseth emerged as the winner, capturing his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.
Fox Sports delivered live coverage of the 54th Daytona 500 for more than 11 hours over the course of three days. The NASCAR on FOX crew started reporting on Sunday from the rainy Daytona International Speedway, bringing viewers live interviews, updates, predictions and analysis from 12:00 – 5:15 pm ET 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 prerace 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 historic Monday primetime running of the Daytona 500. The never-before-seen fiery crash halted action on the track for more than two hours, but sent the NASCAR on Fox crew into overdrive interviewing 21 drivers. When Fox Sports signed off Tuesday morning at 1:00 am ET, another six hours of live coverage was in the books.
Top-rated markets for the Daytona 500 include: Greensboro (18.1/27), Jacksonville (18.1/27), Charlotte (16.7/26), Greenville (16.7/26), Dayton (16.1/25), and Orlando (16.0/26). Markets seeing the biggest growth from last year include: New Orleans (+46%, 7.3 vs. 5.0), Salt Lake City (+33%, 8.1 vs. 6.1), Ft. Myers (+30%, 15.5 vs. 11.9), San Antonio (+17%, 7.5 vs. 6.4) and Tampa (+17%, 12.5 vs. 10.7).