February 28, 2012

The most bizarre Daytona 500 in history, as dubbed by the Associated Press, attracted a 7.7 overnight rating, down six percent from last year (8.2) but up 10 percent from the 2010 race that was twice delayed due to a pothole on the track.

Monday night's rating translates to 7.7 percent of TV households in 56 urban TV markets who were watching the race. Final ratings, including the number of viewers watching the race, will be out over the next two days.

With rain postponing the traditional Sunday afternoon race to the next day for the first time in 55 years, the Daytona 500 was initially rescheduled for noon on Monday. But a stream of inclement weather pushed it to Monday night for the first-ever Daytona 500 in primetime television. FOX said the first three hours of the race drew a 7.7 rating and the race was pacing ahead of last year's race as it drove into the 10 p.m. hour on the East Coast. (The telecast drew its highest rating of the night between 10-10:15 p.m. Eastern, when it drew an impressive 9.2 rating.)

But then came a massive fuel fire that stopped the race for two hours as safety workers used laundry detergent to clean up the track. Fox held its audience impressively during the red-flag delay, drawing a 7.3 rating. Worth noting is five-time champ Jimmie Johnson exited the race in Lap 2 in a multi-car crash that temporarily sidelined Danica Patrick.

The final lap of the race concluded at 12:55 a.m. Tuesday morning, with Matt Kenseth holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. FOX said the coverage of the Daytona race will produce its most-watched Monday night since last year's World Series.

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