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Danica helps Nationwide race set new TV mark
With an average of more than 4.2 million people watching, ESPN2’s live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opening race from Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13 has set a record as the most-viewed Nationwide Series race ever on cable.

The race telecast, which featured the NASCAR debut of open wheel racing star Danica Patrick, earned a fast national household coverage rating of 3.2, averaging 4,271,365 viewers in 3,170,109 households. The viewership numbers eclipse the previous Nationwide Series cable records of 3,954,798 viewers and 2,946,951 households set by TNT for its telecast of the 2006 Daytona race.

Data shows that viewers stayed with the telecast even after Patrick was eliminated in a multi-car crash just past the halfway point of the race. ESPN2 peaked with a 3.5 household coverage rating for the last 20 minutes of the race as Tony Stewart held off a pack of drivers to take victory.

“While Danica certainly helped bring people to the telecast, she wasn’t the only factor,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions. “Great Daytona Nationwide racing action kept viewers through to the checkered flag.”

ESPN2’s 3.2 rating for Daytona was up 33 percent from the 2.4 rating for last year’s Daytona race and 28 percent higher than the 2.5 rating for the 2008 race, previously the network’s highest rating ever for a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

ESPN2 is the home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series all season, with select races airing on ESPN and ABC. The next race is at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 20, with the ESPN2 telecast beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
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