NASCAR Makes a Ratings Run With This Year's Daytona 500
In 2005, 18.7 million viewers tuned in to the Daytona 500; last year, only 9.2 million fans saw NASCAR's signature season opener — the lowest total since Fox began airing the Great American Race in 2001.
But lap-by-lap announcer Mike Joy believes the trend will reverse this year, thanks to some big storylines.
Jimmie Johnson starts his 19th, and final, NASCAR Cup season at Daytona. The seven-time series champ (only Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt have won as many) hasn't notched a victory since 2017, and he's hungry. "He's had team difficulties the last few years," Joy says, "but Jimmie did not forget how to drive." The two-time Daytona 500 winner finished ninth last year, so a win would be a real seat-shaker.
Chevy by a Nose
Three of the top four finishers last season — led by champion Kyle Busch — drove Toyotas. The best Chevrolet driver, Kyle Larson, finished sixth. But Joy sees a comeback for the sport's top manufacturer from 2003 to 2015. "[The Chevys] have a new front-end design," and a smoothing of the nose point will make bump drafting — a Daytona constant — more productive.
Busch remains winless in 14 tries at the 500. Can he bring victory to his Rowdy Nation fans? "Only if he stops worrying about it," Joy says — never easy at the 2.5-mile oval. "When you win a race, you've had a good year; win the Daytona 500, you've suddenly had a great career."
Daytona 500, Sunday, February 16, 2:30/1:30c, Fox