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Daytona 500 Ratings Hit 5-Year High; Viewership Spikes In Cities

This year's edition of the Daytona 500 posted its strongest TV ratings since 2008, thanks to a buildup of attention drawn by Danica Patrick's history-making pole position and a horrendous crash during a race at the track Saturday. Viewership peaked late in the race, when Patrick dropped from third position to finish eighth behind winner Jimmie Johnson.

The biggest percentage gains in viewership seem to have come in big cities.

"Ratings were up 91 percent in Chicago, 64 percent in San Francisco, 60 percent in Los Angeles, 59 percent in Boston and 43 percent in New York," the AP reports.

Among women between the ages of 18 and 34, average ratings grew 16 percent. Patrick's top-ten finish is the best ever for a female driver in the Daytona 500; she also became the first woman to lead a lap in the race.

The Daytona 500, which begins NASCAR's season, gained 24 percent over its ratings in 2012, when rain forced a move from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. As Sports Media Watch reports, the Daytona 500 "earned a 9.9 rating and 16.7 million viewers on FOX Sunday afternoon, according to Nielsen fast-nationals."

The stronger TV ratings are welcome news for NASCAR, after a 2012 in which its elite Sprint Cup series "took a downward ride, posting its smallest TV audience in five years and registering a 25 percent drop in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic," as Sporting News reported at the end of last season.

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