Daytona 500 2012: Was a Monday Night Race Positive or Negitive for NASCAR?
It is a tough call: Would you rather have your organization's premier event shown on a relatively uncompetitive Sunday afternoon or delayed to prime time on Monday night?
NASCAR most definitely made the right choice in postponing its Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, to Monday rather than compete on Sunday evening with the Academy Awards and the NBA All-Star Game.
In other words, it was better to wait a day rather than compete with an already competitive television audience, given the time slot.
The issue at hand, though, is whether it may be better to simply hold the race on a Monday night.
The comparisons that can be drawn to Monday Night Football are fairly clear. Be different, be a spectacle, and be broadcast on a major network. The ratings are not out yet, but it is evident that NASCAR will not take the Monday prime time spot in the future, barring inclement weather.
As an organization, NASCAR has bigger ears towards its fanbase than do most other major sports. It is not to say that the television broadcast audience was not taken into consideration, but NASCAR highly values the 200,000 or so fans that showed up and bought a ticket for a Sunday afternoon race.
NASCAR, probably more than the fans themselves, wanted the checkered flag dropped and a champion crowned around five or six o'clock, EST on Sunday. Prior to 2012, it had no interest in doing business any other way.
However, the rain delays of 2012 may give NASCAR pause to consider whether it was actually better, in terms of television ratings, to put on its race in a new format.
What is better for the Daytona 500?
Of course, it breaks with longstanding tradition, but perhaps it is better in the 21st century to be seen at night. NASCAR knows fans will watch it whatever day it comes on. Could the Monday-night billing give the sport more exposure and widespread appeal?
At this juncture, it is tough to say. Without the disastrous two-hour delay caused by Juan Pablo Montoya's collision with a safety truck trying to clean up the track, the answer may have leaned toward the affirmative.
On the other hand, given that delay, NASCAR will probably remain firm in its insistence of presenting the Daytona 500 every year on a Sunday afternoon. Traditions built over half a century have a hard way of breaking.
Still, though, NASCAR would be wise to delve deeper into the television ratings, once they come out, to see if changing its date in the future would be a more viable option.
To truly gauge whether it was a success, it should compare the ratings when the green flag dropped, after Danica Patrick crashed out, and then when it became clear that Montoya's accident would cause a major delay.
NASCAR has many factors to consider, though overall it probably considers the Monday night version of the race as somewhat of a failure and a 100 percent disappointment, despite it being an enjoyable race when it was under green.
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