By admin | February 25, 2013
By Richard Allen
NASCAR’s premier race is the Daytona 500, and needless to say, it is important for the event to be well received by both those who attend in person and those who watch on television. Based on the ratings that have come in and on an informal poll conducted by this writer, opinions are mixed.
According to preliminary reports, viewership was 30% higher this year than in 2012. A number of factors likely contributed to the drastic increase.
The fact that Danica Patrick had become the first female driver to ever earn a Daytona 500 pole starting position almost certainly drew in more viewers. That was aided by the qualifying process for this race which determines the top-2 starting spots a full week in advance of the main event. That provided time for considerable promotion leading into the race itself.
Additionally, the Daytona 500 did not run at its normal time last year due to rain. The race had to be moved to Monday night with little time to get the word out. Further, 2012 ratings were likely affected by a long delay in the race when a jet dryer was struck and exploded while on the track.
Sunday’s race had a number of key elements needed to make for an entertaining event. The finish was in doubt right up to the waving of the checkered flag. There was strategy involved regarding late race fuel and tire management. The highly promoted pole sitter remained in contention throughout the full 500 mile distance. And, there were crashes for those who look for those type incidents.
However, there were drawbacks as well. Those previously mentioned crashes eliminated fan favorites such as Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. The depletion of star power may have caused some to lose interest or see the race in a more negative light.
Also, there was very little passing to take place through long stretches of the race’s middle sections. For lap after lap, cars rode around in a long nose-to-tail string with no real action to speak of.
Immediately after the race, I posed the question on Twitter of what grade the Daytona 500 should be given. I followed that up approximately 24 hours later on both Twitter and Facebook. Reactions were mixed, but there were more average and below average marks than high.
In all, 66 people responded. Only one person rated the race as an ‘A’ while six respondents gave the event a ‘B’. A total of 25 followers rated the race as an average ‘C’.
But on the negative side, 21 followers said the race deserved a grade of ‘D’ and another 13 more determined the biggest race of the season was a failing ‘F’.
Among the biggest complaints were the fact that there was not very much passing until the final 20 laps, the respondents favorite driver had a bad day or that their guy(or girl) didn’t win. No doubt, had a driver such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Tony Stewart won, those fans would have scored the race higher.
Granted, this was a very small sample size and the method for obtaining data was less than scientific to say the least. All in all, it’s obviously good for NASCAR that the early ratings were higher than last year. But at the same time, it can’t be a good sign that so many were willing to voice negative thoughts immediately after the race’s conclusion.
Along with the race itself, I also asked followers to rate Fox’s broadcast of the race. One concern I’ve heard in recent years is that races may be viewed negatively because of the coverage.
Not as many people responded on the Fox poll but the percentages were somewhat similar. There were two ‘A’ grades for Fox while four viewers gave the network a ‘B’. Ten people rated the TV aspect of the race as a ‘C’. There were eleven ‘D’ grades and six ‘F’ scores.
Several respondents praised Fox’s newest innovation, the Gyro-Cam. It was also said that the network did the best it could with what they had to work with, referring to the race itself.
Negative comments centered around the amount of coverage given to Danica Patrick and the overly simplistic explanations included within the broadcast. Also, analyst Darrell Waltrip was criticized by virtually every person who graded the coverage as a ‘D’ or ‘F’.
It seems safe to say that NASCAR had a large audience for its biggest event. But at the same time, the sport did not seem to put its best foot forward, at least according to the followers who took the time to respond to my unscientific poll.
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