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James Hibberd
February 28, 2012 AT 06:33 PM EST

Fox’s live coverage of the Daytona 500 delivered some healthy ratings for the network, while NBC’s Smash showed some fighting spirit after recent declines.

About 14.1 million viewers* tuned in for the event during primetime, which averaged a hearty 4.6 rating in the adult demo. The “Super Bowl of NASCAR” made national headlines when driver Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer. The resulting fireball shut down the track temporarily (Montoya was unharmed). Being rain-delayed for hours also contributed to the drama, but doubtless helped propel viewers to screen once racers got the green flag in primetime.

NBC was a strong second, but The Voice (14.8 million viewers, 5.4 adults 18-49 rating) dipped 10 percent. This is interesting: Smash (6.7 million, 2.4) rose 4 percent despite its Voice lead in declining and facing original episodes of Castle (9.1 million, 2.2) and Hawaii Five-0 (9.4 million, 2.5). It’s too early to say what that might mean, but it’s a hopeful sign.

Between NASCAR and The Voice, CBS was under pressure, it’s comedy lineup dropping: HIMYM (9.1 million, 3.6) was only down slightly, but 2 Broke Girls (10.1 million, 3.7), Two and a Half Men (11.8 million, 3.6) and Mike & Molly (10.1 million, 2.9) hit season lows. In fact, Two and a Half Men fell 14 percent to hit a series low, which for a comedy that’s been airing for nine years — and hired a new star this season — is possibly significant.

ABC’s The Bachelor (8 million, 2.6) fans were undeterred, the show up a bit.

* Corrected from earlier version that used Fox Sports’ 36.5 million viewership claim, which only included viewers who only watched a mere few minutes of the event.

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