There’s nothing fairly just like the Daytona 500

The begin of America attempting to determine what it is going to do by way of all these lengthy months with out soccer begins instantly after the Super Bowl, and the primary of the seasonal antidotes arrives this very weekend.

The Daytona 500 hits our screens Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) and our ideas, an annual extravaganza that has its personal particular place on the calendar and a way of unmatched uniqueness.

If you have been, you recognize there’s nothing fairly prefer it. If you have not – a state of affairs that I’m about to rectify this weekend – then it is time to both add it to the sporting bucket checklist or, if it is already on there, get organized sufficient to truly tick it off.

No occasion mixes the previous with the long run fairly so intriguingly. Any speed-based self-discipline, by its very nature, has innovative expertise on the core of its aggressive soul. Yet Daytona is rather more about custom and timelessness, which is the larger purpose the five hundred is offered out for the eighth straight yr.

The feast of horsepower by the Florida coast has extra in widespread with the Super Bowl than you’d suppose. There are huge numbers of individuals for whom soccer’s huge recreation is the one pigskin-flavored contest they’ll watch all yr.

Similarly, NASCAR has a religious and devoted following, however these loyal ranks are joined for Daytona by the informal and the curious, who sense a possibility to take pleasure in one thing completely different.

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Different it actually is.

“There’s nothing like it,” 2007 Daytona 500 champ Kevin Harvick informed me this week. “For the audience beyond the typical NASCAR fan base, it is something special that you can’t fully describe until you’ve seen it.”

Martin Truex JR. and Bubba Wallace amongst favorites to win 2023 Daytona 500

Bobby Labonte and David Ragan discuss.

It is different in that the signature race of the year in the NASCAR Cup Series is the first one, a sporting quirk that’s somewhat delightful for its strangeness. No preamble, no messing about, no buildup, just get into the meat of the action and give one driver a monumental lift to start the campaign.

The race revolves around its history, but isn’t always kind to the big names.

Kyle Busch is a two-time series champion who has won virtually everywhere on the circuit, but he’s never won this race in 17 tries. Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 series winner, counts 18 fruitless attempts, having missed out by just 0.11 seconds seven years ago. Brad Keselowski is 0-for 13, and nearly had it in 2021, blocked by then teammate Joey Logano on the final lap.

“It’s just not happened yet for me,” Busch told reporters. “Some guys, this is the only race they ever win. Other guys, they win it two or three times. It’s the Super Bowl of our sport, and it’s hard to accomplish this one.”

Meanwhile, for the last two champions – Michael McDowell and Austin Cindric – their Daytona triumph has been the only win at top level.

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That unpredictability is one of the race’s charms. Richard Petty won seven times here but good luck trying to guess the outcome in recent years. In a race where everyone is desperate to win, and where anything can happen, well, anything often does.

For the crowd, the week is about more than just the drivers, even though NASCAR fans get fired up and outraged on behalf of their favorite like no other.

This is where people go to watch motor racing, but plenty else besides, a festival where the diehards and the passersby are shoulder-to-shoulder, eating and drinking and camping and glamping and partying.

NASCAR is in the midst of necessary change while needing to remain cognizant that familiarity is part of what brings people back. NEXT Gen cars. Old-school traditions.

There are exciting developments afoot for NASCAR, like bouncing off a highly-successful preseason exhibition at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and preparing for a street race in Chicago. Yet the sport, and this race, will still lean heavily here into the feel-good throwback memories of Dale Earnhardt winning his only Daytona 500, now 25 years ago.

Dale Earnhardt’s legendary win in the 1998 Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt's legendary win in the 1998 Daytona 500

Bob Pockrass takes a look back.

The people come for how it makes them feel and what it reminds them of. And because, no matter who your favorite is and why you chose them, watching fearless drives move ferocious vehicles at ridiculous speed is entertainment, raw and immediate.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the every day publication.

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