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Woody: The 500 Signaled A Number Of Gains

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 17 2010
Fans crowded the infield grass for pre-race ceremonies at Daytona on Sunday. V

Fans crowded the infield grass for pre-race ceremonies at Daytona on Sunday. V

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

According to Mr. Nielsen, the TV ratings for last Sunday’s Daytona 500 were down 16 percent, the lowest recorded in 19 years.

At the same time Mr. Nielsen reported that over 3 million more viewers turned into the race, a 14 percent gain over last year’s race.

Ratings were down while viewership was up? What a classic case of statistics proving whatever you want them to prove.

What skewed the Nielsen numbers were two lengthy delays in the Fox telecast while a track pothole was being patched.

Nielsen’s ratings formula is based on how much time the average viewer spent watching the total telecast, not on the number of viewers that tuned in. Understandably a lot of them flipped channels during the pothole work. I imagine some even watched golf, even though personally I’d rather watch a pothole being filled.

I think the most accurate figure to gauge viewer interest is how many people initially tuned in. And it’s hard to believe that most of those who watched the start but left while the asphalt cooled didn’t return in time to catch the finish.

If they didn’t, I’ll bet they were kicking themselves when they discovered what they’d missed.

Nielsen estimated that 29.8 million viewers watched at least some of the race, up from last year’s 26.2 million. Those are significant numbers. Other pro sports would drool over them.

One of the big questions going into Daytona was whether last year’s slump in ratings and attendance would seep over into a new season. I think we have the answer: so far, so good.

The real test will come this weekend at California, a track that historically has lagged in attendance, ratings and – frankly – excitement.

I suspect that the dramatic Daytona finish will draw a lot of viewers to the start of the race. The question then becomes, will there be enough action on the track to hold their interest?

Let’s hope NASCAR doesn’t become like the NBA, where viewers tune in for just the last couple of minutes to see who gets the last shot.

There’s no question that the sport got a huge boost last week with Danica Patrick’s Nationwide debut, followed by the thrilling 500 finish – and Dale Jr.’s rousing rally to claim second place.

NASCAR’s doing everything in its power to put excitement back in stock car racing, and it outdid itself with the new triple overtime green-white-checkered rule. It will revolutionize the sport.

The season is off to an exciting start. Hopefully NASCAR can maintain that momentum at California with more great racing and another cardiac finish.

And no more potholes.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 17 2010
One Comment

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  • Muddphoto says:

    Still enjoy your columns Larry, but pardon me for a little “old school” rant I have to get off my chest. I’ll concede that it is a good thing that the Cale Yarborough’s or Richard Petty’s of today are not winning a race by the 5 to 10 laps they used to win by. But have we race fans become so spoiled that we think every race is boring unless a car is ripping thru the fence, or Clint is receiving the checkers while skidding on his roof and on fire, or it’s a 4 abreast finish? Maybe your earlier column of “Too Much Of A Good Thing?” applies to our view of whether a race is boring or not. Something inside me wishes for the old Nascar. Back when each car make was unique and distinct- remember the day when the Monte Carlo was different from the Plymouth Roadrunner which was different from the Torino? I wish drivers would climb from their cars today and not complain about an aero push or a bad set of goodyears- just admit your car got beat by a better car that day. And while I’m at it I’d rather watch Rockingham, N. Wilkesboro, the old Atlanta configuration, or a Nashville 420 any day before a race at Calif, Kansas, Vegas, or the Charlotte/Texas/Atlanta cookie cutters. Thank you for your time and space Larry. Gotta run out to a body shop and get an estimate for patching the rust on my El Camino. I love my old car.