via FOX Sports press release:
51st DAYTONA 500 DRAWS 16 MILLION VIEWERS DESPITE RAIN
Abbreviated Race One of America's Most-Watched Sports Events
New York & Los Angeles - The rain-shortened Daytona 500 last Sunday (2/15) reaffirmed its status as one of America's premier annual sports events. Despite losing to rain what are historically its most-watched laps, this year's average audience of 16.0 million viewers places the Daytona 500 ahead of many of the country's iconic sports events including the NCAA Final Four (15.4 million viewers), Beijing Olympics (15.2 million), 2008 NBA Finals (14.9 million), Kentucky Derby (14.2 million) and the final round of The Masters (13.1 million) and US Open (12.1 million). The Daytona 500 also maintained its position as the No. 1 motorsports event on television, outdistancing last year's Indianapolis 500 by 122% (7.2 million).
The 2009 DAYTONA 500 on FOX averaged a 9.2/19 household rating/share according to fast national figures released by Nielsen Media Research. This year's edition of the Great American Race is the second broadcast by FOX since 2001 negatively impacted by the weather. The last rain-shortened Daytona 500 came in 2003, and posted a 9.8/21, with an average audience of 16.8 million viewers. Last year's full 200 lap, 500 mile race earned a 10.2/20, with 17.8 million viewers.
Clearly, Sunday's rain interruption prevented the Daytona 500 from enjoying the explosive viewership growth it typically experiences over its final laps. The 2009 Daytona 500 was called due to rain with 48 of 200 laps remaining. Last year, viewers arrived in droves to catch the conclusion of the race, lifting the rating for the last half-hour of racing +16% higher than the previous half-hour (12.1 vs. 10.4). On Sunday, the final half-hour grew by just +1% over the previous half-hour (9.8 vs. 9.7).
Greenville (SC) led all local markets with a 21.2/33; followed by Greensboro (NC), 19.9/33; Dayton, 18.0/31; Indianapolis, 17.2/31; Knoxville, 16.9/27; Charlotte, 15.6/27; Orlando, 15.4/29; Nashville, 15.3/27; Tampa, 15.2/30; and Jacksonville, 15.1/25.