The Daytona 500: The Start of a New NASCAR Season
On Sunday, a new season of NASCAR fires up with the Daytona 500. This will be the 54th running of NASCAR’s most famous event. Unlike most sports, which have their biggest event at the end of the season, NASCAR starts its season off with a bang. Daytona is like the Super Bowl of NASCAR. Almost two weeks of racing is done leading up to Daytona. Because it is such a large race, it requires its own preshow. The Daytona 500 also carries the largest purse, with the winner taking home close to $1.5 million. It is an event that brings out the stars, and it is definitely time to shine.
Trevor Bayne used the Daytona 500 last year to make a name for himself. In only his second ever Sprint Cup race, Bayne won Daytona. He became the youngest to ever do so at just 20-years-old. Bayne became an instant star and picked up several sponsors, which allowed him to compete in more races.
However, not all memories from the Daytona 500 are good. In 2001, Dale Earnhardt lost his life on the track. Heading into turn three on the final lap of the race, Earnhardt was involved in a wreck. The wreck did not look severe at all, but hours after the race, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced Dale’s death. This occurrence was definitely one of the saddest and most memorable events to ever happen during a 500. This year will mark the 11th anniversary of the tragedy that took the life of one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers.
So what else does this race bring? It brings the promise of a new exciting season of stock car racing and the promise of 36 thrilling races involving 43 excellent drivers. With the season comes some potential stories too. Will Jimmie Johnson regain his spot at the top of NASCAR? Prior to last year, Johnson had won five consecutive Sprint Cup Championships, which is an undeniably impressive accomplishment. However, last year, he was dethroned by Tony Stewart. Johnson’s reign being brought to an end could be enough to refuel his passion and put him back on track for another championship.
Danica Patrick is also a huge story this year with the Sprint Cup. Last year, she raced in a few of the Nationwide Series races. This year, the former IndyCar sensation is making her debut in the big leagues of stock car racing. So far, she has not been as successful with stock car racing as she was with IndyCar. Maybe this year, her luck will change. Being a female in a male-dominated sport always draws the press and attention to her.
Another huge story going into the Daytona 500 is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps with being NASCAR’s most popular driver, an honor he has won nine consecutive years. Unfortunately for his racing career, that is about the only thing he has been winning. Junior has gone 129 races without winning; this streak dates back to the 2008 season. While winning hasn’t affected his popularity, the driver would trade some of his fan support for a victory. If Dale Jr. wins the 500 this year, it would make for an explosive start to the 2012 season.
Overall, there is plenty of potential going into the 2012 season of NASCAR. Anything from the popular drivers, to the hated drivers, the streaks, the records, the feuds, and much more that could escalate. The script for the season has yet to be written, and that is what is exciting. There are 36 points races over the next nine months. There are thousands of laps and miles that will be run. Most of these laps will be made with those famous left hand turns, while a few others will come on road courses. To the average person, this repetition of laps is dull and monotonous, but to the NASCAR enthusiast, it is pure joy and exhilaration. The thrill of the Daytona 500 begins another promising year of stock car racing.