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Fox did not want to see the Daytona 500 "run on Monday morning" or afternoon "competing with 'Days of Our Lives,'" according to SI's Chris Mannix. The network wanted the race to air "either on Sunday afternoon, which is obviously a big ratings area, or primetime, which is certainly a big ratings block." Mannix: "But at the end of the day, it could not have worked out better for NASCAR." Earnhardt winning the race is "going to provide a huge bounce for NASCAR" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 2/24). USA TODAY's Jeff Gluck this morning tweeted, "On a plane full of homeward-bound racing industry people who are VERY happy NASCAR raced last night and didn't postpone to 5 pm today!" (TWITTER.com, 2/24). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes Fox was likely "fine with seeing this event click over into prime time." Danica Patrick "even led a couple of laps just before the race's midpoint." George: "Unfortunately, the tail end of this race remained a mystery for those who had to head home for work or school or simply had to turn off the TV and say goodnight to a race to which they already had committed half a weekend. Could anything have been done to improve upon this soggy compromise? Well, sure, but that would have required a different kind of compromise, and some major cooperation from Fox Sports, which generally operates under the assumption that a $2.4 billion contract keeping Sprint Cup racing on the network through 2022 is cooperation enough" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/24).
THREE-PEAT: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes the "best moment of the Daytona 500 pregame show was a feature on car owner Richard Childress' decision to put the late Dale Earnhardt's famous No. 3 back in circulation." Austin Dillon, Childress' grandson, "drove the No. 3 car" yesterday. It "sounded as if Childress would not have minded keeping the No. 3 permanently out of circulation, but NASCAR doesn't retire numbers." Childress said that Earnhardt Jr. "gave him the blessing to use his father's No. 3 again." However, Fox' Michael Waltrip said during the pre-race show, "I think it's great that Austin is driving the No. 3. But whenever I see the No. 3, I will always think of Dale Sr." (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/24).
LET'S GO TO THE TAPE: In N.Y., Viv Bernstein writes Fox "made sure fans watching on TV remained entertained for much of Sunday." The net "ran a replay of last year’s race during the long delay and did not immediately run a disclaimer informing fans it was not live." Many fans "were fooled, even though Fox later ran a crawl on the bottom of the screen clarifying that it was a replay." Among those who "apparently got it wrong" were Fox News and espnW.com. Fox News reported on Twitter that Jimmie Johnson "had won the race -- he was last year’s winner -- and espnW.com turned to Twitter to congratulate Danica Patrick on her eighth-place finish." Johnson "apparently received so many congratulations on Sunday that he responded on Twitter as well." Johnson wrote, "I hear I won the #Daytona500? Haha!” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). The AP's Mark Long wrote other drivers "had fun with the widespread error, too." Clint Bowyer wrote on his Twitter account, "Wait a minute! I'm confused, did @JimmieJohnson win or not?" Many fans on Twitter were "confused throughout the replay, tweeting along as if the race was live." Deadspin "ran some of them under the headline, 'Scores Of Idiots Don't Realize Fox Is Airing Last Year's Daytona 500.'" Even NASCAR "couldn't resist jokingly weighing in on the confusion." NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell wrote on Twitter, "Congrats @JimmieJohnson amazing." O'Donnell "didn't stop there, either, taking another playful shot about 45 minutes later." O'Donnell wrote, "For those in media center getting impatient @JimmieJohnson should be wrapping up his victory lane ceremony shortly." Long noted adding to "the strange story line, Fox's rain-delayed coverage was sponsored by the movie 'Noah'" (AP, 2/23).
Earnhardt posted a selfie with the trophy on Twitter
FUELED BY NASCAR: FS1 on Thursday night drew 2.3 million viewers for "Fox Sports Live" following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Duels, marking a new audience record for the studio show. The show's previous record was 522,000 viewers following the Oregon State-Oregon football game last November. The Duels averaged 3.1 million viewers on FS1, marking the Daytona 500 qualifying event's best audience since '00, when CBS drew 4.3 million viewers for a Saturday telecast. The audience for Thursday's Duels also marks FS1's second-best audience on record, behind only the Sprint Unlimited's 3.5 million viewers on Feb. 15 (Fox).