Nascar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway

By: Chris DiCicco

The Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida is home to some of the most significant NASCAR races there are. It is a 2.5-mile track and can seat 168,000 fans. Other racing associations share the track too so it is not exclusively a NASCAR facility. It is home to the race most Americans know because it has been around for so long: The Daytona 500. NASCAR sponsors this event as the NEXTEL Cup - Daytona 500 - "The Great American Race."

In 2008, the 50th Annual NEXTEL Cup Daytona 500 race will be held. The NASCAR Daytona 500 is a 500-mile race that consists of 200 laps. This race will begin the NASCAR season on February 17th. The winner of the Daytona 500 gets awarded the Harley J. Earl Trophy. Harley J. Earl was an automobile designer who served as the second NASCAR commissioner. The Harley J. Earl Trophy will be plated in gold instead of silver for the 2008 race.

The NASCAR Daytona 500 has a unique qualifying procedure. The top 35 teams from the previous year's competition are automatically qualified to compete in the current Daytona 500 race at the Daytona International Speedway. There are 150-mile qualifying races held one week before the big race and the two top drivers from the qualifications will be added to the 35. Other top qualifiers will fill the remaining spots to 43 and previous NASCAR champions without a spot will be given priority.

The Daytona International Speedway has seen its share of exciting victories throughout its history. For example, take the Daytona 500 victory in 1976 where David Pearson just barely beat out the King of Racing Richard Petty. The two actually wrecked on their dart for the finish and both cars went into spins. Richard Petty's car stalled out when it went into the infield. Pearson managed to get his car over the finish line at 30 mph. All this excitement happened just 20 yards from the finish line.

The Daytona 500 has had its share of tragedies. In 2001 Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash on the last turn of the last lap of the race. Dale Earnhardt had won at this track 34 times.
It was suspected that some car modifications allowing drivers to break faster caused this and they were discontinued in the rules after this fatal race. The modifications made the cars more aerodynamic and allowed more cars to take the lead during a race. The idea was to inject more excitement into NASCAR racing at the Daytona International Speedway as well as other tracks.

Since this Daytona 500 race at the NASCAR Datyona International Speedway is so popular, there is an entire website dedicated to it: www.daytona500.com. It has streaming video on it from prior races.

The Daytona 500 made news with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. getting the number 88 for his car in the upcoming 50th race. The number 88 is significant in NASCAR because it was the same number used in earlier years by his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt. But that is not the only link that makes the number 88 significant. The number 88 has a long list of drivers who have displayed the number to include Bobbie Allison, Donnie Allison, Fireball Roberts, and Darrell Waltrip to name a few. The number 88 has been recorded in 65 wins and is ranked as number 9 in the all-time most winning numbers.

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