One of the biggest international racing events of the year and by far NASCAR’s most prestigious event, the 55th running of the Daytona 500 looks like it’ll be as action-packed as ever. NASCAR’s traditional season-opening event, the Daytona 500 is one of the most famous and spectacular racing events in racing, with an international audience to rival a Formula 1 grand prix and a $1,500,000 prize up for grabs for the winner.
”But why should we care, Mag? It’s just rednecks driving around in circles for three-and-a-half hours, isn’t it?”
Yeah, but that’s like dismissing Formula 1 as being about men in cars driving around circuits for 90 minutes. The beauty of Daytona is that it’s all about absolute, unadulterated speed. Forty-three cars racing side-by-side flat out mere centimetres from each other at over 320km/h. If you’ve never seen NASCAR super-speedway pack racing before, it really is one of the most spectacular sights in all of motorsport. Add to that tyre and fuel strategies, caution (safety car) periods, track evolution, extremely close finishes and the fact that just a single mistake by a single driver could trigger total chaos for the rest of the field makes the Daytona 500 one of the most engrossing and exhilarating racing events on the planet.
I mean, what other form of motorsport is there where it’s common to see cars finish a race whilst upside down and on fire?
When to watch
The 2013 Daytona 500 takes place this Sunday. Provided that conditions are dry, the green flag is scheduled to fly at 1pm local time, or 6pm UK time.
Click here to find out when the race starts in your part of the world.
Where to watch
Unfortunately, there’s no live coverage of the Daytona 500 available on British TV this year, although ESPN will be showing an hour long highlights package of the event on Monday morning.
On a completely unrelated note, here’s a lovely picture of a stream for you:
Who to watch for
For the first time in both Daytona 500 and NASCAR history, a woman will start a Sprint Cup race from pole position. Former IndyCar race winner Danica Patrick set the fastest time in qualifying for the event last weekend and will lead the field down to the green flag at the start of the race. Although this is a great achievement, the reality is that being on pole at the Daytona 500 isn’t anywhere near as crucial as being on pole in Formula 1 is and Patrick is going to have to overcome the odds if she is going to take the win for her Stewart-Haas team, as in the 54 year history of the event, only nine times has the pole sitter has gone on to take the chequered flag.
Immediately behind Patrick on the grid are three former winners of the Daytona 500, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and 2008 race winner Ryan Newman. Other big names include Patrick’s team owner and multiple champion Tony Stewart – AKA, ‘Smoke’ – who is always very strong around Daytona but is still looking for that seemingly elusive Daytona 500 victory. Fan favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr will start 11th and the grid this year will include two former Formula 1 drivers in Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Speed, who start 13th and 35th respectively. Aussies and V8 Supercar fans will be cheering on Marcos Ambrose who’s earned the respect of his NASCAR rivals since leaving Australia for America’s premier stock-car series.
Daytona 500 trivia
- The race takes place over 500 miles (“you don’t say!”), or 200 laps of the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway. That’s 805km, or almost three whole grand prix race distances.
- In order to try and guarantee a racing finish, if the race reaches 200 laps whilst under yellow flag conditions, the race will not end and there will instead be a two lap shootout when the track is clear to determine the finish of the race. This is called a ‘green-white-chequered’ finish and has taken place six times since the rule was introduced in 2004.
- The record for most Daytona 500 wins is seven, held by legendary NASCAR champion Richard Petty.
- Formula 1 world champion Mario Andretti (who was born in Italy but became a naturalised US citizen) is the only man to have won the Daytona 500 who was not born in the USA.
- The youngest ever winner of the race was Trevor Bayne, who was only 20-years-old, running a part-time schedule and driving an unsponsored car when he took victory in the 2011 event.
- The luckiest car number at the Dayton 500 is the number 43, which has won the race a total of seven times.
- The 2012 race was postponed by a day to Monday evening because of wet weather on Sunday, the first time the Daytona 500 had ever been postponed. The rescheduled race eventually finished at 1am Tuesday morning, after a lengthy delay due to a massive fire when Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer, causing it to explode:
Hope to see you all enjoying the race on Sunday!