Nascar: Getting Ready for the Big Day

by : Julie Smith

Preparations are beginning for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway catalogued as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR Calendar is around the corner and the annual season opening is already in action.

The Budweiser Shootout, a non-points All-Star race featuring the previous season's pole winners and past Budweiser Shootout champions which kicked off a week before the big day of the season shows a record of 23 racers this year. The shootout is very famous in the United States; however, nothing is more important than the NASCAR's Superbowl or Daytona 500 usually held the second Sunday of February and always associated with the Presidents Day weekend.

Winning Daytona 500 is the perfect chance to shine on the sport's biggest day. It's also the biggest payday each year. The winner's share this year likely will top $1.5 million. But the drivers aren't thinking about the money because it is all about a place in history since winning this event makes you the most valuable player in NASCAR since fans remember Daytona 500 winners more than Cup champions.

In fact, Daytona 500 TV audience has been the highest for any auto race of the year. Actually, the 2006 Daytona 500 attracted the sixth largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers. People who normally don't watch NASCAR will tune in and watch the Daytona 500, just like people watch the Kentucky Derby or the Masters.

There are already three drivers leading the pack as early favorites to win the 2008 Daytona 500. Defending Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports Teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all listed as favorites to win the 50th running of the Great American Race.

As yet, Jimmie Johnson has the fastest speed in the first Daytona 500 practice; he posted it this morning going 186.285 miles per hour while rookie Carpenter was the fastest in the afternoon going 186.150. Patrick Carpentier was the quickest driver in the second practice session for the 50th Daytona 500. The Valvoline Dodge driver lapped the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway tri-oval in 48.348/186.150 mph.