Shortened Daytona 500 ratings doused

Viewership down to 16 mil for Fox's rain-called race

NEW YORK -- Sunday's Daytona 500 ratings were lower than last year's race, and Fox Sports blamed it on the rain.

The telecast Sunday afternoon and early evening averaged 16 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday. That's down from last year's 17.8 million.

Viewership increases in the final laps but that wasn't the case this time. The Daytona 500 was called because of rain with 48 laps remaining; Matt Kenseth won the 152-lap race after a steady rain, a caution flag and a 16-minute delay.

The race averaged a 9.2/19 in Nielsen's preliminary estimates. That's down from last year's 10.2/20 and the lowest since 2000, which averaged an 8.4/22. In the past nine years, only one other race was cut short by rain. In 2003, the race averaged a 9.3/21 and 16.8 million viewers.

Even with the lower numbers, the Daytona 500 rates higher than the Indianapolis 500, which averaged 7.2 million viewers last year.

Nielsen said that Greenville, S.C., was the top market with a 21.2/33. Also in the top five: Greensboro, N.C. (19.9/33); Dayton, Ohio (18.0/31); Indianapolis (17.2/31); and Knoxville, Tenn. (16.9/27).