Despite the Daytona 500 getting slapped with an inconvenient rain delay, the first race of the 2021 NASCAR season held its own in ratings. The much-anticipated race raked in an average of 3.4 million viewers and a 0.7 television rating.
For reference, ABC’s American Idol won the weekend with 6.7 million viewers and a 1.1 overall rating. On the low end, CW’s Batwoman hit series low with only 507,000 viewers and a 0.1 rating.
The Daytona 500 did, however, beat out NBC’s That Grand Ole Opry Special, which averaged 2.8 million viewers and a 0.3 rating.
How TV Ratings Work
If all of the above numbers sound like a jumble of nonsense to you, you are not alone. Television ratings can be very confusing to understand, but here is a simple run-down just to get the gist. Ratings involve a good bit of math, but I will spare you the calculus and give you the crash course.
First of all, ratings are not an exact science. The Nielsen ratings estimate the number of households watching a certain show based on a smaller sample. To give numbers, Nielsen Data estimates that America has 120.6 million households with television access. However, the Nielsen ratings only sample 46,000. While these will not give an exact percentage, the sample size should reflect the population.
So, the Nielsen rating comes from that percentage. Take the Daytona 500 for example. It brought in a 0.7 rating, which simply means that an estimated 0.7 percent of the population watched the Daytona 500. The 3.4 million viewers, well, that’s exactly what it sounds like.
Daytona 500 Gets Mixed Reviews Despite Decent Ratings
Now, the Nielsen ratings estimate how many Americans viewed a certain program on a certain day. However, the ratings do not take into account how much those viewers enjoyed said program. Due to several factors, namely the rain delay, NASCAR fans could not decide whether they enjoyed the Daytona 500 or not.
According to a poll by NASCAR journalist Jeff Gluck, fans split almost fifty/fifty down the middle in terms of enjoying the race. In the poll, 57.1% of respondents thought the Daytona 500 was a good race, while 42.9 did not. A lot of this disdain stems from the 16 car pile-up, the rain delay, then the second final lap wreck. Well, rather what happened as a result of these events.
“After another fireball finish endangered drivers and ruined millions of dollars in race cars, it’s hard not to wonder if the carnage is worth all this effort,” wrote Associated Press auto racing writer Jenna Fryer about the Daytona 500.
Some fans noted the style of racing that happened after the crash and the rain delay. “Pains me to say it, but no. Driving around single file for 180 laps isn’t fun,” one fan responded to Gluck’s poll. Another mentioned, “Happy for McDowell, but 65 laps of single-file at 12 am was roughhhh.”