The Daytona 500
is a 500-mile-long (805 km) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
motor race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway
in Daytona Beach, Florida
. It is one of four restrictor plate
races on the Cup schedule. The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, coinciding with the opening of the speedway, and since 1982, it has been the season-opening race of the Cup series.
The Daytona 500 is regarded as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar, carrying by far the largest purse. Championship points awarded are equal to that of any other Sprint Cup race. It is also the series' first race of the year; this phenomenon is virtually unique in sports, which tend to have championships or other major events at the end of the season rather than the start. Since 1995, U.S. television ratings
for the Daytona 500 have been the highest for any auto race of the year, surpassing the traditional leader, the Indianapolis 500
which in turn greatly surpasses the Daytona 500 in in-track attendance and international viewing. The 2006 Daytona 500 attracted the sixth largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers.
The event serves as the final event of Speedweeks
and is sometimes referred to as "The Great American Race" or the "Super Bowl
of Stock Car Racing." All 56 Daytona 500s since the first race in 1959 have been held in the month of February. From 1971-2011, it was associated with Presidents Day
weekend, taking place on the Sunday before the third Monday in February. For 2012, the race was pushed back a week, to the last Sunday of February. Because of inclement weather conditions on February 26, the day the 2012 Daytona 500
was supposed to be held, the race was postponed until the evening of Monday, February 27, and it wasn't until the 2013 Daytona 500
, which was held on February 24 of that year, that the race took place on the last Sunday of February for the first time.
The winner of the Daytona 500 is presented with the Harley J. Earl Trophy
in Victory Lane, and the winning car is displayed, in race-winning condition, for one year at Daytona 500 Experience
, a museum and gallery adjacent to Daytona International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
is the race's defending champion after winning it in 2014.
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