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The Daytona 500 Rainy Days and Mondays: Good or Bad for Fans?

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(Rob Sweeten/Associated Press) - Emergency workers try to extinguish a fire on a jet dryer during the Daytona 500.

This past Sunday evening I was all set to post my opinion about the rain delay of the 2012 Daytona 500. Here were my thoughts at the time:

As I think of the tens of thousands of die-hard NASCAR fans trudging back to their RVs after spending their time and money to NOT see this year’s race, I’m really questioning why the powers that be had to postpone the 2012 Daytona 500 due to rain–the first time this has happened since 1964.

As a racer myself, I certainly understand the safety issues. But since ’64 there have been amazing improvements in safety, including rain tires. So, why can’t they just run in the rain like F1, LeMans and Gran Turismo?

I guess the bigger question from a customer service perspective is, how did they make their decision? Where on their list of considerations are the fans–working people who think of the D500 as the highlight of their year? They take time off of work and spend alot of money to see the race in person. They can’t just stay ’til Monday. And what if it rains on Monday too?

As they say, “that was then, this is now.”

After seeing the race on TV Monday night, I was blown away. Having the event at night made it seem different and special–there was an extra buzz. And, judging from the fact that the speedway was packed, apparently fans either made arrangements to stay or sold their tickets.

One of my colleagues sent me this article by Kurt Badenhausen in Forbes magazine (Forbes writes about racing??):

Monday Night Daytona 500 Start Time Could Jump Start Critical Nascar Season

Daytona on a weeknight under the lights? The novelty could pay off with TV ratings. It is certainly better than the 12 noon start time on Monday when millions of race fans would have been at work or school and missed the race.

NASCAR is hoping the Daytona 500 will keep the momentum going from last year when TV viewership rose 10% after a five-year slide where viewership fell 30% from its peak in 2005.

A Monday afternoon audience cannot match a Sunday afternoon when people built their plans around watching the race, but Monday night could work. The Monday race also avoids the conflict, albeit it at different times, of the Oscars and NBA All-Star games which both took place on Sunday and sucked up much of the media and television viewer’s attention.

What to you think? Sunday in the rain or Monday nights? Did NASCAR make the right call and maybe stumble onto a great formula?