Big Rise in Daytona TV Ratings

Daytona 500

Sunday's Daytona 500 overnight television ratings were up nearly 30 percent from last year. (Photo: Getty Images)

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Sunday's Daytona 500 overnight television ratings were up nearly 30 percent from last year.

Helped by the strength of Danica Patrick's pole and a week's worth of national media attention, NASCAR's first Sprint Cup Series race of the season attracted a huge television audience.  The 10.0 overnight rating and 22 share on FOX was up significantly from last year's Monday night rain-delayed race.  It was the highest overnight rating for the race since 2006.

The Patrick factor was only one part of the equation that, no doubt, included Saturday's Nationwide Series crash that generated national and international headlines.

The off-season build-up to the year and the introduction of the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series racecar created an anticipation many drivers acknowledged throughout Budweiser Speedweeks in Daytona.

"I noticed something last night coming out of the track for dinner that just seemed to be a different vibe inside the infield," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in his post-500 media session.  "People seemed more excited about what was getting ready to happen.  There seemed to be a lot more people here, seemed to be a lot more excitement about the race."

Earnhardt finished second behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the 55th running of "The Great American Race."

"That really was the biggest motivator for me.  I think we're headed in the right direction," he said.  "For some reason, it just felt like we're on the right track as a sport.  That's got me really excited."

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