Imagine this: it’s Sunday, the Chiefs just won the Super Bowl, there’s no more football and you don’t know how to get your sports fix.  What do you do?  That’s easy- you turn on Fox and watch the Daytona 500.

Yes, I am your resident NASCAR fan and I’m very excited for the Super Bowl of stock car racing.  Hopefully by the end of this opinion, you will be too.  

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season was one of the best of all time and 2023 looks to show no signs of slowing down. This series is as competitive as it has ever been.  When you take drivers like Ross Chastain, whose wall ride in November was one of the most viral racing moves ever and put him in a race of this magnitude, there’s no telling what he’d do to get his hands on the Harley J. Earl trophy.

What makes NASCAR different than most leagues is the fact that their big spectacle is at the very start of the season.  Not only are drivers fighting for the biggest win of their lives, they’re also beginning a grueling 36-race journey over the next 38 weekends.  

Unlike other sports, in NASCAR it’s every man for themself, as all 40 drivers are in it to win it.  Among these 40 drivers are some fascinating drivers to follow. 

Joey Logano took the championship last year and is always a force at Daytona, winning the race in 2015.  His teammate, Austin Cindric, forced another Penske driver, Ryan Blaney, into the wall to win this race last year as a Cup series rookie.  Bubba Wallace is one of the most well-known drivers as well as a superb superspeedway driver.  He could finally break through after two runners-up in the Great American Race while driving for Michael Jordan. 

Not only are these drivers going to be exciting to watch, but there’s a legend that is back for another shot at glory.  After a stint in IndyCar, seven-time champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson, is back as a co-owner of Richard Petty’s team, now named the Legacy Motor Club.  Johnson will have to earn his spot, driving the No. 84 Carvana Chevrolet, while also providing invaluable mentorship to rookie Noah Gragson and the underrated Erik Jones.

However, the drivers garnering the most attention are Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.  

Kevin Harvick is one of the best to ever do it, winning the 2007 Daytona 500 and 2014 series championship.  But he announced that the 2023 season will be his final in the sport.  Harvick showed he still had something in the tank when he scored back-to-back wins at Michigan and Richmond in August.  Nicknamed “The Closer”, time will tell how he closes out his storybook career.

As for Busch, he wants to show that his old team made a massive mistake.  The Joe Gibbs Racing legend is out of his ride in place of Joe Gibbs’ grandson- hotshot rookie Ty Gibbs.  Busch now makes the move to Richard Childress Racing, which is an objective step back in performance.  However, if anyone can make the most out of this, it’s Busch.  Not only that, but Busch is still yet to win the Daytona 500 in 18 attempts.  He has a massive chip on his shoulder, which is when he is at his best.

Look, that’s great and all; but why should that convince you to watch the Daytona 500 on Sunday?  Simply put, the racing at Daytona is some of the most exciting action you can ever look for.  Imagine up to 40 cars going over 200 mph, so close together you can put a blanket over all of them.  Daytona International Speedway is a ticking time bomb.  One bad move and chaos erupts.

The Daytona 500 has been the biggest event in stock car racing since its first running back in 1959.  After the original Daytona Beach course held races dating back to the early 20th century, plus hosting the first NASCAR sanctioned race in 1948, Daytona became the pinnacle of American motorsports.  Winning at Daytona is a life-altering moment.  So many drivers have had their legacy carved at this 2.5 mile tri-oval.

When I think Daytona, my mind immediately goes to the late, great Dale Earnhardt.  Earnhardt is a name everyone has heard at some point in their life.  Considered by some to be the greatest racer ever, Earnhardt dominated everything at Daytona, between the Busch Clash, Duel races, summer events and IROC races; but could never win the Daytona 500.  That changed in 1998 in his 20th try, where the man in black captured the one race that always eluded him.  This led to one of the most iconic moments in history, as well as one of the most iconic calls from Mike Joy, who will call the race Sunday.  Tragically, Earnhardt also saw his tragic passing at this very race; as he was killed in the final lap of the 2001 running, a race that saw his driver, Michael Waltrip, win and his son, Dale Jr., run second.

Much like your favorite team, Daytona can bring unfathomable joy, but can also provide unimaginable heartbreak.  When you watch these 40 cars run for their lives around this track, know that you are witnessing history in the making.  A race that saw its inaugural running take three days to determine a winner has had its fair share of unforgettable moments since.  When a driver wins this race, they become immortalized along with legende like Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon and Pearson.  If you’re not invested yet, I don’t know what to tell you.

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