TV Numbers For Daytona 500 Rise Slightly

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 28 2017

Driver Kurt Busch celebrates his first Daytona 500 victory. He called the win ‘surreal’. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Kurt Busch’s last-lap pass to victory in NASCAR’s 59th annual Daytona 500 capped a lengthy, crash-marred Sunday afternoon of racing around the high-banked/2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, with 23.3-million viewers tuning in for all or part of the FOX network telecast.

An average audience of 12-million watched the race across the FOX network, FOX Deportes and FOX Sports GO platforms. The 2017 season-opener marked the debut of NASCAR’s three-stage format under banner of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“It’s surreal,” Busch said Monday during the annual Champion’s Breakfast in the Speedway’s Bill France Room. “Wins are hard to come by…but to win the Daytona 500, it’s hard to put into words. It’s beyond belief, really.

“As a kid you watch this race on TV and you live the experiences with the drivers who win the race or lose the race. And after racing in this race for 16 years (myself) now and having it go 16 different ways, when you win it, it erases all those memories. And now you have this permanent memory of being able to drive into Victory Lane with the winning car.”

Busch’s 29th career Cup victory was scored in the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing, the organization’s first race with Ford Motor Company following an offseason switch from Chevrolet Racing.

The race averaged 11.922-million viewers on FOX, up five percent over 2016’s average audience of 11.357-million, and peaking at 14.031-million viewers from 6:15-6:30 p.m. (EST). The race scored a 6.6/15 HH (household) rating, which was flat overall compared to the 2016 edition but still delivered positive gains across key male and adult demographics. For instance, viewership was up by nine percent over last year among men aged 18-49, with a household increase from 3.4 to 3.7 percent.

As such, “The Great American Race” ranked as the highest-rated/most-watched sports event of the weekend and the highest-rated/most-watched sports event since the NFL’s Super Bowl on FOX on Feb. 5.  Despite questions created by NASCAR’s new three-stage format and scoring system, the Daytona 500 continues as the No. 1 motorsports event on television.

The top-five viewership markets were led by Greensboro, N.C., at 17.5/31, followed by Greenville, S.C. (16.5/28), Indianapolis (14.4/26), Knoxville, Tenn. (12.7/22) and Jacksonville, Fla. (12.4/22). Markets experiencing the largest year-over-year increases included Austin, Texas (plus-111 percent), San Diego (plus-74 percent), Oklahoma City, Okla. (plus-49 percent) and Norfolk, Va. (plus-47 percent). Sunday’s race also saw significant gains in some of America’s biggest markets, including Chicago (plus-18 percent), Philadelphia (plus-32 percent), Washington, D.C. (plus-18 percent) and Atlanta (plus-20 percent).

Additionally, the Daytona 500 was the second-most talked-about event on social media Sunday, trailing only the Academy Awards, with 443,000 people posting about the race on Twitter or Facebook.  Two million people posted or engaged socially regarding the race.

Busch was 0-for-15 in the Daytona 500 entering SpeedWeeks 2017, although the native of Las Vegas also had three Daytona 500 runnerup finishes (2003, ’05, ’08) to his credit. Busch, who has experienced a number of career controversies since his Cup championship season in 2004 for Roush Fenway Racing and Ford, has found his niche with the team co-owned by retired three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart and businessman/racer Gene Haas.

“I’m a survivor,” said Busch, who joined SHR for the 2014 season. “I feel like I’ve pulled the sword from the stone. We’ve conquered Daytona.” The race produced eight caution flags for 40 laps and 37 lead changes among 18 drivers _ the last involving Busch’s pass of Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS on the 200th and final lap.

During the breakfast meeting, DIS President Chip Wile presented championship jackets to Busch, SHR co-owner Haas and crew chief Tony Gibson, a Daytona Beach native; a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch to Busch; the Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 championship trophy to Haas; and the Cannonball Baker champion crew chief trophy to Gibson. In addition, Wile and Busch unveiled the logo for the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2018.

Another Daytona 500 tradition continued as the new champion’s car began its one-year showcasing in the DIS Ticket and Tours Building residence. Yearly, the winning car is brought in directly from Gatorade Victory Lane. The goal is to allow fans to see the car in all its race-mode authenticity; Busch’s car features all its dents, dings, tire rubs, scrapes and duct tape. The display also includes a huge chunk of infield sod on the car’s hood, which flew up and landed there during Busch’s post-race donut celebration in the grass.

Following photos of Busch and the entire Stewart-Haas team with the No. 41, the new champion placed one foot and both hands in cement, then carefully signed his name on the square that will be added to the Daytona 500 Champion’s Walk of Fame outside the Ticket and Tours Building.

Busch left for New York City after the breakfast for two days of media activity that included stops at FOX News, Race Hub on FOX, NASCAR America on NBC and ESPN’s SportsCenter on Monday and Live! With Kelly, SiriusXM and Game Set Max on FOX on Tuesday. The media tour will continue in Atlanta on Thursday with stops at The Weather Channel and CNN Headline News.

FOX Sports’ coverage of the series continues this weekend at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway. Live race coverage on FOX is set for 2:30 p.m. (EST) with pre-race coverage beginning at 2 p.m. on FOX NASCAR Sunday


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 28 2017
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