WATKINS GLEN, NY - JULY 05: Danica Patrick driver of the #7 Motorola Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda stands in the pits during practice for the IRL IndyCar Series Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on July 5, 2008 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Yesterday I asked if Danica Patrick could help turn around NASCAR's struggling ratings with a strong performance from the pole in the Daytona 500. The question was met in the affirmative. The 2013 Daytona 500 won by Jimmie Johnson ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. was way up in the overnight ratings versus last year with the number moving Fox and NASCAR to do celebratory donuts in the parking lot...
The @nascaronfox #DAYTONA500 posts a 10.0/22 overnight rtg/share,+30 % over last year's 7.7/13 & best overnight rtg for the 500 since 06.
— Dan Bell (@danpbell) February 25, 2013
A 30% increase over last year is huge for the sport. As I wrote Sunday morning, the last 3 Daytona 500 had only averaged a 7.6 in ratings and yesterday's race drew a 10.0. Again, it's impossible to quantify just how much Patrick's 8th placed finish helped the ratings, but she was certainly in contention to the very end. You'd have to have your head buried pretty far into the sand to say she had no effect on the highest rated Daytona 500 since Johnson's previous victory in 2006.
The race was pretty much everything NASCAR and Fox could ask for - Patrick was right there at the end as the sport's most successful driver of this generation (Johnson) crossed the line first followed by its most popular driver (Earnhardt Jr.) of this generation.
The question for NASCAR now becomes whether or not they can hold on to some of that increased audience as the series moves away from Daytona.