Daytona 500 TV ratings end up being the lowest on record

The good vibes from the overnight television ratings for the Daytona 500 did not last very long.

There was much positivity from those searching for some surrounding NASCAR’s viewership numbers when the overnight ratings for Sunday’s race won by Denny Hamlin were slightly up over 2018. But the final television ratings came in on Tuesday and, well, they didn’t back up the overnights. According to Sports Media Watch, the 2019 Daytona 500 posted a 5.3 rating and 9.17 million viewers.

It’s the same rating as the 2018 Daytona 500 received. But the 9.17 million viewers are 130,000 fewer viewers than last year’s race had. And it makes Sunday’s race the least-watched Daytona 500 since viewership numbers started being kept for the race in 1979.

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Nearly 12 million people watched the 2017 Daytona 500, meaning the 500 has lost 2.75 million viewers over the past two years. It’s feasible to believe that at least part of that drop is due to the absence of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The 2017 race was his final Daytona 500.

But that can’t explain the entirety of the drop, right? As NASCAR TV ratings continue their downward slide, there’s no indication they’ll stop dropping anytime soon. The series has lost 5 million viewers over the past 13 seasons.

The 2019 Daytona 500 television ratings are especially bad considering that the 2018 Daytona 500 went up against the Winter Olympics. The Olympics typically siphon off casual viewers who are searching for sports to watch on a boring February sports weekend. If that siphon happened last year, those viewers didn’t come back in 2019.

The numbers of people who streamed the race on Fox Sports’ streaming service Fox Sports Go were up. But that’s an audience that’s a mere fraction of the total audience that watches the Daytona 500. So while more people may be watching the race on mobile platforms, literally 99 percent of the race’s viewers came from traditional television.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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