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. For the first time in the race’s 54-year history, rain postponed Sunday's 1:00 PM ET start until 12:00 PM ET Monday with continued showers in the afternoon delaying the green flag until 7:00 PM ET.
A total audience of over 36.5 million Americans watched last night’s 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.
FOX 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 2012 Great American 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.
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).