UPDATE: After the rain delay, and a two-hour fire delay during the Monday race, the winner of the 2012 Daytona 500 was Matt Kenseth. It was his second victory at Daytona. Danica Patrick was among the drivers taken out in a crash on the second lap by driver Jimmy Johnson.
SAN DIEGO, Feb 27, 2012 – For the first time in its 54 year history, NASCAR’s Daytona 500 will take place on a Monday. Due to a rainout on Sunday, the event will get underway at 7 p.m. Eastern Time (4 p.m. Pacific Time) on the FOX Network from the famous racetrack in Florida.
The announcement was made Monday morning following the postponing of the marquee season opening race on Sunday due to heavy rain. NASCAR officials spent more than four hours Sunday waiting for enough of a window for the track to dry, but when a storm cell hit the speedway at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, officials made the disappointing decision to postpone the race.
Although NASCAR’s showcase event had been shortened four previous times due to bad weather, it had never been postponed outright until Sunday. Track president Joie Chitwood III said he was frustrated by the decision but that NASCAR would make the best of it. ”We’ve just got to suck it back up, and make sure [Monday] we do a good job and give our fans what they expect, which is a great Daytona 500.”
According to The Weather Channel, today’s forecast shows a 70 chance of rain during the day, with a possible window in the afternoon, dropping to a 40 percent chance of rain for Monday night, which is one reason why the decision was made to run the race under the lights.
But the other reason is push the race into prime time television. It will no doubt make fans happier if they can hurry home from work to enjoy the race they missed on Sunday, and Fox gets to find out whether NASCAR can be a big ratings draw during prime time similar to Monday Night Football. A primetime race will outdraw by far a weekday afternoon race.
NASCAR also wants to make the most of a big general interest draw, the debut of former Indy Car driving star Danica Patrick in the Daytona 500.
Fortunately for Fox, it’s not pushing aside its big ratings winner “American Idol” which would have made it a much tougher decision. The shows being moved aside are “House” and a two-hour episode of the new series “Alcatraz.” It’s an unexpected bonus for Fox to have this case study to see how NASCAR programming performs.
The move also helps Fox soothe the frayed nerves of its advertisers, who paid good money expecting a huge audience Sunday afternoon. Fox now has to offer to make good those advertising purchases. Most major advertisers require a minimum ratings guarantee so they get the audience numbers they paid for. Ed Goren, vice chairman for Fox Sports Media Group praised Fox’s production crew for its coverage during the rain delay Sunday. Fox still drew a 4.5 overnight rating despite no on-track action during nearly four hours of air time.
Fox averaged a 5.0 final Nielsen rating and 8.6 million viewers for its 13 Sprint Cup Series telecasts this season, up 4.2 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, from a 4.8 rating and 7.8 million viewers over 11 races last year. Last year’s figures exclude the Martinsville and Texas races, which were rained out on their respective Sundays and run on the following Monday.
To compare, the 2011 season’s final Monday Night Football game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons drew 15.6 million viewers. Top rated prime time shows like “NCIS” draw in the range of 20 million views.
Part of the reason programming like NASCAR is so attractive to advertisers is its ability to draw the 18 to 34 year old male audience, which is abandoning television for video games and online entertainment.
NASCAR president Mike Helton says the question is whether the loyal NASCAR audience will find the Daytona 500 in their listings. The casual fan in primetime has other options. The NASCAR broadcast will compete with the powerhouse CBS comedy lineup including “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men,” and the popular reality competition show “The Voice” on NBC everywhere but the West Coast.
“So, let them race, and let’s find out what happens,” said Helton.
The irony is that NASCAR pushed back its traditional season opening race one week this year due to creating an awkward early off weekend and to avoid potential conflicts with the Super Bowl.
Had the race been run on its traditional Sunday, it would have been completed under sunny skies.
“I guess I’m gonna have to win the first Monday Daytona 500,” said driver Greg Biffle, who will start second when the race begins.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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