ATLANTA The war with Iraq and rain delays at the two of the crown jewel events couldn't slow NASCAR's popularity among Fox television viewers this year.
The network, along with its cable partner at FX, just completed its share of the broadcast season. Under terms of the $2.6 billion contract with NASCAR, NBC and TNT will broadcast the rest of the season, starting with the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5.
Although there were two rain delays at the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 prompting early finishes at both and extensive war coverage during a three-week stretch that started in late March, the average rating at Fox was 5.8 with a 14-share.
Those figures match the two previous years.
The Food City 500 at Bristol, Tenn., on March 23, the Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas on March 30 and the Aaron's 499 at Talladega, Ala., on April 6 all had lower ratings compared to the past two years, but those races were against the war coverage.
The ratings for the other races exceeded last year to balance out the overall figures.
Compared to other sports, racing continued to be a strong No. 2 to the National Football League.
The average rating for the NBA Playoffs was 4.8, the NCAA men's basketball tournament was 5.0, the NHL regular season was 1.1 and the Stanley Cup finals was 2.9.
The rating is the percentage of all homes with televisions; the share is the percentage of televisions tuned to a particular program.
According to figures released by Fox, the Winston Cup Series' ratings were 123 percent better than the NBA's regular season ratings.
PLAYING WITH NUMBERS: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt might have won seven NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships each, but based on the current point system Darrell Waltrip was the most-successful driver since the current point system was established in 1975.
Even with his retirement in 2000, Waltrip has amassed more points 96,550 than any other driver in the past 28 years.
He finished among the top 10 in points for 15 consecutive seasons. He won 84 times in 769 starts.
Ricky Rudd is second in total points with 94,646, while Earnhardt, who died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, is third with 93,650.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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