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Daytona 500: Your Guide To NASCAR’s Iconic Race

Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the historic Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 19.      

By Andrew Woodin
Nascar Daytona 500 Guide

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

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NASCAR’s 2023 Cup Series officially kicks off this weekend with the fabled Daytona 500. Now in its 65th year, it’s here, at “The Great American Race,” where laser-focused drivers trade paint with one another at incredible speeds, all vying for the coveted checkered flag at one of the league’s most revered speedways. With the epic event nearly upon us, here’s a look at the most important elements you should know before the Daytona 500 officially kicks off.   

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When And Where Is The Daytona 500?

The event occurs in Daytona Beach, Florida. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 begins Wednesday, but the official main event takes place this Sunday, Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m. EST. Race fans can catch all the high-octane drama on FOX.

How Does A Driver Qualify for the Daytona 500?

After passing the technical inspection, single-car qualifying begins Wednesday night. This consists of each driver running one lap, and the 10 fastest cars advance to a second round that decides this group’s final order ahead of the remaining cars. In addition to structuring the lineup for the “duels,” which are the Thursday night qualifiers, these preliminary single-car runs are important because they form the front row for the Daytona 500. The two fastest cars get the honor and privilege of taking the front row for Sunday’s main event.

Thirty-six slots are automatically held by NASCAR charter members, meaning there are four spots up for grabs among non-charter hopefuls. The six drivers competing in qualifying runs for the four open spots are Conor Daly (The Money Team Racing), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (Legacy Motor Club).

How Long Does The Daytona 500 last?

The grueling race typically clocks in around four to five hours, but the 2012 Daytona 500 obliterated that number by taking an astounding 36 hours to complete due to several severe weather delays that resulted in multiple cautions. Historians of the sport coined it as “NASCAR’s Longest Day.”

How Long Is The Track At The Daytona 500?

Built in 1959 by Bill France Sr., the Daytona International Speedway features a four-turn, 2.5-mile, tri-oval track with a nearly 180-acre infield.

How Many Cars Will Race At The Daytona 500?

The qualifiers held on Wednesday and Thursday will determine the race’s final 40-car lineup, comprised of 36 charter teams and four open cars.

Nascar Daytona 500 Guide2

What Does The First-Place Finisher Win At The Daytona 500?

As one of the most prestigious races on the Cup Series circuit, the winning driver can expect a pretty nice piece of coin for his efforts. That said, NASCAR has stopped highlighting the exact purses for races. However, we do know that the 2015 total payout was $18 million, and the winner Joey Logano earned a little more than $1.5 million. NASCAR also released the total payout for 2020 which was $23.6 million. If this year’s amount reflects NASCAR’s percentages in the past, we can assume the winner will rake in more than $2 million. The winner also receives the Harley J. Trophy in Victory Lane, and the winning car gets displayed at the track’s museum.

How Many Laps Is The Daytona 500?

NASCAR’s historic race forces drivers to race 500 miles over the course of 200 laps. The action unfolds in three stages. The first two stages each take 65 laps to complete while the third and final stage requires 70 laps

How Much Are Daytona 500 Tickets?

With the event mere days away, tickets are selling out fast. Major ticket aggregator sites like StubHub are selling event passes, valid for the entire four days (Feb. 16-19), between $450 and $550. Race fans who only want to attend the main event Sunday should expect to pay around $180.

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Who Won The Daytona 500 Last Year?

In 2022, rookie driver Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 for Team Penske, fending off advances from Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and his own teammate Ryan Blaney.   

Who Has The Record For The Most Daytona 500 Wins?

While Cale Yarbrough is the only other driver with four wins, and only four drivers have three wins — Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin — Richard Petty has earned an impressive seven victories, giving him the record for the most Daytona 500 wins.

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