Fox Sports executives have good reason to be dancing a jig this week. 

Thanks to the lead-in of the NASCAR Duel at Daytona and a pile-up at the finish line involving Clint Bowyer, Fox Sports Live saw its best numbers ever and it beat ESPN's SportsCenter for the first time. For Fox, it's a big victory.

On Thursday, the NASCAR Duel went head-to-head against ESPN's college basketball. Fox says its numbers for the Duel garnered 3.122 million viewers. And when the NASCAR crew signed off and handed off to Fox Sports Live, a good portion of the audience stayed to watch the nightly highlight/talk show. 

Fox says FSL averaged 2.272 million viewers. The late SportsCenter at 11 p.m. ET registered 1.089 million viewers and its lead-in was the venerable Duke at North Carolina which posted 2.285 million viewers. 

TV by the Numbers charted the Thursday cable ratings including Fox Sports Live and ESPN SportsCenter: 

FOX SPORTS LIVE L FS1 9:57 PM 2272 0.6
SPORTSCENTER LATE       L ESPN 11:17 PM 1089 0.5

Granted, Fox can't depend on NASCAR every night, but it certainly has to be pleased that it can beat ESPN on a given night. 

To give some perspective Fox Sports Live's previous high was 522,000 viewers back in November of last year following the Oregon-Oregon State game. Thursday's numbers beat the previous record by 335%!

Fox Sports 1 still has a long way to go before it can regularly compete with ESPN, but as it prepares to carry more NASCAR in 2015, Fox executives have to be encouraged by Thursday's numbers. As Fox has been stating since it launched Fox Sports 1 back in August, this is a marathon and certainly not a sprint.

[TV by the Numbers]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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