DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As NBC picked up its half of the NASCAR schedule with Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway, it faces a big task: Stop the ratings slide.

Fox Sports wrapped up its portion of the season last week with the least-watched race at Sonoma Raceway since 2002. Not counting rainouts, all 15 Cup Series races this season have set or tied a multiyear ratings low.

Still, last Sunday’s Fox Sports finale ranked second among all sports events watched on a single network, trailing only the final round of the PGA’s Hartford Open. Even so, the downward ratings turn is something NBC hopes to flip.

“I think we can control what we can control, and that’s putting the best possible product on the air,” said Sam Flood, executive producer for NBC’s NASCAR telecasts.

“We also make sure we market and get the word out as well as we possibly can that this is must-see TV. And we’ve got a good history and a good track record at NBC of making events bigger.”

Flood pointed to NBC’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby and the NFL on Sunday nights. The network is entering its third year of its return to NASCAR.

“We know how to do this,” he said. “We just need to work hard, and it’s going to take some digging, but we’re going to get there because we believe in the sport and we believe in these people and we believe that it is a great product on television.

“We want more people in the stands. We want people to enjoy it and be as passionate about the sport the way they were in ‘01 when we came in the first time. We think that’s all possible. We wouldn’t be sitting here and working as hard as we are and planning as hard as we are if we didn’t believe that was going to happen.”

NBC used a “bat-cam” that was rigged to zoom along Daytona’s backstretch above the racing. Mike Wells, the NBC director for NASCAR, used the camera to show cars exiting Turn 2 and turned the camera around and to have it head toward the cars.

“It goes 0-60 mph in about a second,” Wells said.

NBC also plans to introduce a “visor cam” similar to the one Danica Patrick wore last week at Sonoma.

“We’ve got nice toys there that we think will help amplify the speed, the drama and the excitement on the racetrack,” Flood said.

The booth will again consist of play-by-play announcer Rick Allen and analysts Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte.

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