The Daytona 500 – The Great American Race


Daytona Beach is considered by many to be the home of NASCAR and the best place on the planet to view a NASCAR race. There is some truth in this since the Daytona 500 is billed as The Great American Race. The race is considered by many to be the premier race of the NASCAR season even though it kicks off the season rather than being the grand finale.

There are those of you who do not know what NASCAR is and many who could care less. I’m going to tell you a bit about it and the Daytona 500 anyway. NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and is a family owned and operated business. It was founded in the late 1940s by Bill France Sr., and is currently headed by his grandson Brian France. It is the largest sanctioning body of stock car racing in the United States. NASCAR’s headquarters are in Daytona Beach, Florida.

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  • The early days of stock car racing were pretty much unorganized. The earliest racers were the bootleggers of the south who raced to see who had the fastest cars. As the sport grew and the drivers sometimes found themselves racing for money that had disappeared with the organizer of the race, a need for an organization to protect the drivers arose.

    Bill France met with racers and promoters at the Ebony Bar in the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach. The Streamline Hotel is still there and has been recently renovated in part on an episode of Hotel Impossible.

    The first NASCAR race was run in Charlotte, North Carolina and was followed by a race in Daytona Beach. The early races in Daytona were held on the sand of the beach and the highway running next to the beach. The first race held at the Daytona International Speedway was in 1959 and was won by Lee Petty who was the father of NASCAR legend Richard Petty.

    There is a short list of fathers and sons who have both won the 500. That list includes Lee and Richard Petty, Bobby and Davy Allison and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The two brothers who have both won the race are Darrel and Michael Waltrip.

    Chevrolet is the car maker who has won the most Daytona 500 races. Ford is in second place for wins. Several automakers have won, but no longer exist, including Mercury, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Plymouth. This year’s pole sitter is driving a Chevrolet. We will find out Sunday what driver and make will triumph in 2015.

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    Speed Weeks take over Daytona Beach for the month of February. The 24 Hours of Daytona unofficially kicks things off, sometimes on the final weekend of January. After that NASCAR takes over and several races are held leading up the Daytona 500. Daytona is unique in how it qualifies the cars for the race. Qualifying is held the weekend before the race for all cars and the first two qualifiers are guaranteed the top two spots for the race.

    Then on Thursday before the race two 125 mile races are held to set up the rest of the field. As I understand it, how the top 14 drivers finish in these races determines where they start in the actual race. After that, the fastest from the qualifying races and cars with owners points are slotted in a starting position. It is all a bit complicated, but after all it is The Great American Race.

    The Daytona 500 was the first 500 mile race to be televised on network television. I imagine over the years this is where most people have seen at least some part of the race. The television ratings for the race are larger than even the Indianapolis 500 which is one of the most well-known races worldwide.

    I suggest you plan your attendance at the Daytona 500 well in advance if you are looking for a nice place to stay. Daytona fills up for race week and the price of a place to stay rise accordingly. The hotels in the area have grown since the early days of racing and there are plenty of places to choose from. Just make your choice early!

    If you are visiting Daytona Beach for the race, you will want to take a drive along the beach itself. It is usually a bit chilly for all but the most hearty to take a plunge in the Atlantic Ocean, but you can drive for miles on the beach itself. Whatever you do, enjoy one of the favorite beaches in Florida and one of the most popular sporting events in the U.S.

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