The Daytona 500 is the Sprint Cup Series crown jewel, the most popular NASCAR event of the season, and the season opener.

While most sports finish their seasons with their biggest event of the year, NASCAR does things a little differently. The Daytona 500 is the Sprint Cup Series crown jewel, the most popular NASCAR event of the season, and it’s the season opener. The Daytona 500 revs up the racing season every February on the second or third Sunday of the month in Daytona Beach, bringing with it a full week of tradition, fanfare and white-knuckled, high-speed racing.

The first race took place on February 22, 1959, and “The Great American Race” has been an icon ever since. With such names as Petty, Yarborough, Earnhardt and Gordon, the list of past winners reads like a Who’s Who at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s a spectacle that every sports fan needs to experience at least once, and I’ve got some tips on how to make the most out of your trip to Daytona Beach.

In case you haven’t heard, Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile track itself is brand new. The massive repaving project -- 50,000 tons of asphalt spread over 1.4 million square feet – was recently completed. Sitting as close to the action as possible is usually ideal at most sporting events, but in this case, you can find a great seat anywhere.

With options for free parking and shuttle bus service, getting into the race is rather fan friendly.

The fun isn’t contained to the race itself, as there’s an impressive field of entertainment options at Daytona International Speedway. An official track tour gets you onto the infield and into the garages. An All-Access tour gets you even further behind the scenes.

OK, so you want to get your hands on one of these speed demons yourself; I don’t blame you. Your best bet is the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which lets you burn rubber in a real race car. The Experience has a rotating track schedule, so make sure you check the dates before you pack your driving gloves.

But there’s more to Daytona Beach than the speedway. If you have a few days to work with, you’ll want to visit some other sports spots, too. 

Daytona Beach is the home of the LPGA, so golfers will want to play 18 at the Champions or Legends course and measure themselves against some of the greats.

Baseball fans should swing by Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where the Daytona Cubs play from April through September, and where Robinson’s involvement in 1946 made it the first racially integrated game in baseball history. And of course, any trip to Daytona has to include some quality time at the world-famous beach. 

Buckle up! You’re now ready to race to the Daytona 500 and ensure yourself a lasting memory of one of America’s greatest sporting traditions!


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