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NASCAR sets records for fan engagement during Daytona 500

By The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 25, 2016 at 1:50 AM
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Sunday's Daytona 500 provided fans with the closest finish in the history of the Great American Race when winner Denny Hamlin edged runner-up Martin Truex Jr. by .010 seconds -- roughly four inches on the track.

But Hamlin's impressive victory at Daytona International Speedway wasn't the only record-setting event of the day.

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On Wednesday, NASCAR released social media numbers generated from its biggest race, and Sunday's Daytona 500 produced a litany of milestones.

The 2016 Daytona 500 set a record for most social impressions generated in one day by NASCAR's social channels, with race-day impressions up 63 percent over last year's Great American Race.

Engagement with NASCAR social media content -- likes, comments and shares -- increased threefold over the total generated during the 2015 Daytona 500.

"Social media gives fans a chance to get to know their favorite driver outside the track -- their likes, dislikes and all-around personality," JTG/Daugherty Racing driver AJ Allmendinger said. "It allows fans to feel closer to their driver, and that helps push our sport forward into a new generation."

The reasons for the spike are plenty, most notably the celebrity factor that the Daytona 500 often attracts. Singer Justin Bieber tweeted a photo of a NASCAR racing helmet to his 76 million followers. Ditto for actor Ashton Kutcher to his 17.4 million followers. Among the celebrities in attendance on Sunday, Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., actor Gerard Butler, WWE wrestler John Cena, rapper Wyclef Jean, National League MVP Bryce Harper and comedian Gabriel Iglesias all tweeted from the grounds.

This year's race dominated the Twitterverse. The Daytona 500, which peaked at 14.1 million television viewers tuned in for the checkered flag, generated more tweets than any other TV program on Sunday, beating second-place WWE Fastlane by 66 percent.

"The Daytona 500 is one of the biggest sporting events in the world and this year millions of fans consumed the race across television, radio, digital and social media," said Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "Sunday was especially a huge success for our social platforms, with race-day conversation around the Daytona 500 at an all-time high.

"By delivering original content via social channels during the race, we were able to engage with millions of passionate fans worldwide and set a single-day record for NASCAR social media impressions."

NASCAR's digital platform racked up 2.1 million unique visitors and 13 million page views. Fans spent a record 2.8 million minutes watching Daytona 500 content on a new race viewing product called NASCAR Drive, recently launched on NASCAR.com.

More than 23,000 unique Twitter users competed in the Hashtag 500, a "race" to be the 500th person to tweet unique hashtags, with race-used memorabilia as prizes. A tweet promoting the competition to win Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Daytona 500 firesuit generated the most NASCAR-related mentions in 60 seconds since the debut of the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center, which measures such things.

A new partnership with Snapchat enabled NASCAR to reach millions of users with videos and photos uploaded as Daytona 500 content for the first Snapchat Live Story of 2016. Sunday's race was the first installment of 2016, with several more races to follow.

Overall, the 2016 Daytona 500 saw more NASCAR-related social conversation than had previously occurred on any single day since the inception of the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center. Social conversation was up 44 percent compared with last year's race.

For Daytona 500 race week, total consumption in terms of page views per visit of NASCAR's digital platform -- NASCAR.com, mobile web and mobile apps -- was up 6 percent over last year, making it NASCAR's second-highest race week consumption rate of all time.

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