DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 22: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The 2015 NASCAR season is a huge year of transition for the sport.  They enter into new television contracts with NBC and Fox, which includes several races on their relatively young cable networks.  NASCAR’s ratings decline over the last decade is well-known, but partnering with FS1 and NBCSN and airing Cup races there represents a risk for further slides.  However, NASCAR is also optimistic that narrowing the field down to two partners and instituting more consistency and continuity could alleviate those concerns.  And given the success and excitement of the finish to last year’s season, the sport had some momentum.

With all those factors at play, Sunday’s Daytona 500 rating is something of a disappointment.  The race registered a 7.3 overnight rating.  The good news is that it’s way up from last year’s 5.6 which was wrecked by weather delays.  The bad news is it’s well down from the last time the race ran in its normal timeslot in 2013 when Danica Patrick was on the pole and the 500 scored a 10.2 overnight.

Going further back, the 7.3 overnight rating is right about where the race has been for the last several years.  The actual race portion of the 500 was pretty exciting on Sunday with Joey Logano taking the checkered flag, so the big drop from 2013 isn’t too encouraging if the sport was hoping for any sort of big turnaround this year.  Maybe some fans gave up on watching because of all the commercials.

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