Fueled by a contending Danica Patrick, the Daytona 500 returned to form in the television ratings Sunday afternoon.
Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 earned a 10.0 overnight rating on FOX, up 30 from last year’s Monday night race (7.7), and up 22% from 2011 (8.2). The race peaked with a 12.8 overnight from 4:30-4:45 PM ET, topping last year’s peak quarter-hour of 9.2 by 39%.
According to FOX, the 10.0 overnight is the best for the Daytona 500 since the 2006 race on NBC (10.1). That 2006 race had a lead-in from the Winter Olympics and finished as the highest rated and most-viewed Daytona 500 ever.
Unlike other sporting events, such as the NBA or Major League Baseball, final ratings for NASCAR typically increase from the overnight. Over the past five years, final ratings for the race have risen between 4% and 15% from the overnight, putting Sunday’s race on pace to finish in the 10.4-11.5 range. The record-setting 2006 race had an 11.3 final rating.
Sunday’s race benefited from days of intense hype surrounding Patrick, who last week became the first woman to win the pole for any NASCAR event. Patrick mostly validated the hype, becoming the first woman to ever lead the Daytona 500 and running in the top three late in the race.