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Ratings soar with Danica at the wheel
Early TV ratings: Indy 500 up 40% from last year after Danica nearly becomes first woman to win.
May 30, 2005: 2:12 PM EDT
The attention to Danica Patrick's chances at the Indy 500 helped lift ratings for the race by 40 percent, according to ABC.
The attention to Danica Patrick's chances at the Indy 500 helped lift ratings for the race by 40 percent, according to ABC.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Danica Patrick may have finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500, but she helped make a winner out of ABC Sports, which saw its best viewership for the race in nearly a decade.

The network said that the initial "overnight" rating for Sunday's running of the race was a 6.6, which equals the percentage of homes in the nation's major television markets that tuned into the race.

That's up 40 percent from the 4.7 overnight rating the race got in 2004. And it marked the best overnight rating for the race since 1996, according to the network.

The race received greater attention than it has in recent years due to the presence of Patrick, who was seen as the most competitive woman driver ever in the race. (Three other women have raced at the Indy 500 in the past, but none performed nearly as well as Patrick.)

While Patrick didn't win the race, she became the first woman to ever lead the race, holding the lead for 19 of 200 laps. She was out front near the end, from lap 190 to lap 193. The race was won by Dan Wheldon.

"It was obvious there was a great deal of interest in this year's race due to the realistic expectations that Danica would do well," said ABC Sports spokesman Mark Mandel. "We also had great weather and a terrific finish and as a result we had a great rating."

Last year, bad weather often interrupted the flow of the race, hurting ratings further. Open wheel racing -- of which the Indy 500 is the most popular U.S. race -- has also fallen far behind the Nascar circuit in popularity in recent years.

Last year's final ratings for the Indy 500 trailed the viewership of every Nascar race during the season.

To read how Danica still won the race for media buzz, click here.

For more on the business of sports, click here.  Top of page

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