NASCAR Makes a Ratings Run With This Year’s Daytona 500

NASCAR Dayton 500
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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.

Farewell, Jimmie

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.

Kyle’s first?

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