What Is The Daytona 500?
The most prestigious race of the NASCAR Cup Series is the Daytona 500. Since its inception in 1959, the race has also been the pinnacle of NASCAR racing, with a massive prize pool to show it. Read on to learn all about the history, format, and qualifying procedure of the biggest race in NASCAR.
- Venue: Daytona International Speedway
- Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
- First Race: 1959
- Distance: 500 miles (800km)
- Laps: 200
- Most Driver Wins: Richard Petty (7)
- Most Manufacturer Wins: Chevrolet (24)
- Prize Pool: $24 million
What Is the Daytona 500?
The Daytona is a famous 500-mile race that serves as the season opener for the NASCAR Cup Series. Held each year on the third Sunday in February, it is the first of two annual races held at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, the second being the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Known as "The Great American Race," the Daytona 500 is the most prestigious and important race of the season. It has the highest prize pool of any NASCAR race and is the most-watched race of the year.
Daytona 500 History
The Daytona 500 was first held at Daytona International Speedway in 1959. The inaugural race was won by Lee Petty, and the race has been staged yearly ever since. The race was always held early in the season, but in 1982, the Daytona 500 was moved to the season-opener, a position it has held since then.
The qualifying procedure for the Daytona 500 is unique to the race and involves placing high at a preliminary double race. A week prior to the start of the Daytona 500, drivers compete in two 150-mile (240 km) races that are collectively called the Bluegreen Vacations Duel. The winners of both races, plus the following top 15 finishing drivers of each one, qualify for the Daytona 500, and each driver is given a spot in the starting lineup respective to their final placement in the preliminary races.
Daytona 500 Format
The format of the Daytona 500 is made up of three stages that add up to a total of 200 laps. The first stage is 65 laps and is naturally made up of Laps 1 through 65. The second stage of the race is also 65 laps and is made up of Laps 66 through 130. The final stage of the Daytona 500 is 70 laps, made up of Laps 131 through 200.
There is a caution period between each stage of the Daytona 500, during which racing stops and the top 10 finishers are awarded driver points. The first driver is awarded 10 driver points for the stage while the second place is given nine points, and so on until the 10th driver is awarded one point. The top driver of each stage is also awarded a playoff point that will help contribute to their overall playoff points during the postseason.
At the end of the final stage (and the race), the drivers are again awarded driver points based on their placement. The top driver is awarded 40 driver points and five playoff points. The points awarded afterwards decrease gradually, with the second-place driver getting 35 points, the third getting 34 points, and so until the 36th- to 40th-place drivers each get one driver point.
Teams and Drivers
There are 17 full-time teams competing in the Daytona 500. Other, smaller teams are also eligible to compete in the race by entering the qualifying races. The biggest NASCAR Cup Series teams are Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Stewart-Haas Racing, all of which own four charters. Other notable teams are Team Penske, 23XI Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Legacy Motor Club, and RFK Racing.
The drivers competing in the Daytona 500 are some of the best stock car racing drivers in the world. The Cup Series is NASCAR’s premier national series, and the Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the season. In addition to the full-time drivers, the Daytona 500 often attracts retired or part-time drivers who hope to qualify and compete for glory in the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.”
Why is the Daytona 500 so important?
The Daytona 500 is so important because it comes with the most prestige and the highest winnings of any NASCAR race. Since the race was first held in 1959, winning the Daytona 500 has been the greatest achievement of the NASCAR Cup Series and the pinnacle of NASCAR racing.
How does the Daytona 500 work?
The Daytona 500 has three stages, and drivers are awarded points based on their placement at the end of each stage. The first driver to cross the start/finish line after the last lap of the final stage is declared the winner. There is a caution period between each stage, and the first two stages award the top ten drivers gradually decreasing driver points while the final stage gives gradually decreasing driver points to all 40 drivers. Playoff points are given to the top driver of each stage.