I asked the question in my top 5 Daytona takeaways report on Monday, but after the ratings report came out a day later, the question is even more relevant. The Daytona road course experiment has now come to an end. The question is, does it come back?
Adam Stern of the SBJ reported that Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 drew a 2.8 rating with 4.750 million viewers. That’s a pretty strong rating in the sense that this was the most watched road course race for the Cup Series since 2014 he said. It’s also the most watched sports event of the weekend too.
So, does this help the race come back for 2022 now? Yes, the ratings were down based off the second race of last season to this one, but it’s hard to compare the two though as well. This is during COVID and this is with a road course race vs. last year’s non COVID event in Vegas.
Plus, the two times that the series has raced a points paying event on the Daytona road course have come in a pinch. Watkins Glen was a late cancel last year due to COVID restrictions. They quickly need a race in its place. The Daytona road course was intriguing in the sense that they’ve never raced on it before but have always had a flirtatious relationship with. What better year than 2020 to try it out.
Now, with a three race tryout on the road course, one in August, one in February and one also in February at night, there’s a large enough sample size to see if this race is a viable option to return to the schedule for 2022.
The racing last year was less than to be desired. The Clash was phenomenal. There were as many lead changes in 35 laps of the Clash than 65 laps of the race last August. The lower downforce package worked this time around for the all-star race.
I felt like Sunday was improved over August this past weekend, but is it enough to come back. There were 11 lead changes in 70 laps, which means the Clash had more.
Still, other than a fluke yellow, this race flowed nicely and proved that if NASCAR wanted to add a road course race to Daytona that they could. The question is, would they?
“This Daytona road course actually puts on a pretty good race,” said Joey Logano. Yeah, you look at the strategy that comes into play, last night, tonight, even in the truck race, the strategy really is interesting when you have this much falloff. You have cautions at the end where everyone is so aggressive trying to make up all the time they need to make up when they have tires on, they have cars with old tires in front of them.
“It’s fun because, not all the time, but more times than not it’s not always the fastest car that wins. You’re someone like us today, we almost manufactured a victory by doing something different than the fastest cars. We were a fifth-place car. We had a way to try to win and go for it, and we came really close to it. That’s from the calls up on top of the box with Paul and the engineers up there.
“That’s the fun part about it, is that you’re never really out of it. You can do a lot of things, recovery. You look at the top 10, those guys weren’t up there all day long at all, I promise you that. The end of it kind of became crazy as you would expect.
“I think this track is great.”
The action on track showed that the Clash is the best option for this layout overall. The TV ratings though say otherwise. Per Stern again, he reported that FS1 saw 1.577 million viewers for this year’s Clash. That’s down almost 1 million people from the 2020 Busch Clash which saw 2.455 million tune into a Sunday afternoon oval race.
Was it the change from the oval to the road course or the fact that the race was on FS1 and on a Tuesday night?
The ratings on the surface prove that if the road course layout does come back in the future, that it should be a points paying race. Do they need 3 races at the same track though? Would the road course take the place of the ‘400 moving forward? Would it be a third trip then?
Would they listen to TV or use the eye test and say the Clash put on a better show so lets leave it as the Clash and the Clash only?
There’s plenty of questions left now with this year the racing not being a flop on this layout for the Cup cars. How far do they take this?