The Daytona 500, or "Great American Race," is the biggest and most prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar.

It's also one of the most demanding events in motorsports, with a unique combination of speed and endurance. The race takes place at the Daytona International Speedway, a 2.5-mile superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

If you're a fan of stock car racing or just want to know more about what makes the Daytona 500 so special, then read on. This blog post will give you all the essential information about the big race.

So without further ado, let's take a closer look at the Daytona 500!

 

Key Terminology of the Daytona 500

Caution flag: The caution flag, otherwise known as the yellow flag, is waved when there is a hazardous situation on the track. The pace car will go out and no overtaking is allowed during this time. In NASCAR races, the pace car's speed limit depends on the tracks. For the Daytona International Speedway, it's 70mph.           

Green flag: The green flag is waved to indicate that drivers can go as fast as they can.

Green-white-checker flag:  This flag is waved when the race is 2 laps from ending but the race is under the effect of a caution flag. NASCAR races don’t finish behind the pace car, so this flag extends the race for 2 more laps.

Pace car: The pace car leads the field around the track during caution periods and restarts.

Tyre compounds: In motorsports, there are 2 major types of tyre - slick and rain. Rain tyres (having treads to move water aside) are used in wet weather while the slick ones are for dry conditions. In the slick category, harder or softer tires can be used in different strategies. Softer tyres have better grip but wear out faster. Harder tyres don't have as much grip but can last longer. Because NASCAR races are more like a marathon rather than a sprint, the only tyre compound allowed is the hard slick type (the hardest tyre compound in F1 are still softer than NASCAR tyres).

 

How Long is the Daytona 500?

The Daytona 500 is 200 laps around a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) oval track for a total distance of 500 miles (805 km).

The average time for a Daytona 500 race (in the past ten years) is 3h22m.

In the past, there were some Daytona 500 races that were cut short (up to 100 laps) due to rain. NASCAR doesn't run in the rain like F1 and other forms of motorsport because NASCAR only uses one tyre compound. As rain tyres are not used in NASCAR, the racing would be very difficult and dangerous if the track was wet.

In 1974, the Daytona 500 was cut back to 180 laps (450 miles) due to the oil crisis.

The shortest Daytona 500 race (in terms of time and distance) was in 2003. In that year, the race was called off after only 109 laps (2h2m) due to rain. The longest one (in terms of length) was in 2020. In that race, the drivers had to drive 209 laps (522 miles). The extra laps were due to green-white-checkered finishes.

And last but not least, the longest Daytona 500 in terms of time was the 1960 race. It took 4 hours to complete due to 32 laps being run under yellow flags and multiple crashes. The winner, Junior Johnson, only reached an average speed of 124 mph (200 km/h). 

 

How Many Stages Are in the Daytona 500?

The Daytona 500 is divided into three stages. The first two stages are each 65 laps long, and the final stage is 75 laps.

At the end of the first two stages, points are awarded to the drivers who finish in the top 10. The winner of stage 1 and 2 gets 11 points (10 plus 1 playoff point). The second gets 9 points. The third gets 8 points and so forth.

The final stage winner gets 45 points (40 plus 5 playoff points), the second gets 35 points, the third gets 34 points, and all the way down to the 35th place, which gets 2 points. The 36th to 40th drivers who finish the race get 1 point each.

However, making it to the final finishing line is not an easy job. Only less than 60% of the field can finish the whole race due to wrecks in recent years. This number increased to 70% in Daytona 500 2022, where 28/40 cars reached the end of the race.

 

How Many Cars Are in the Daytona 500?

The Daytona 500 field is composed of 40 cars. And this number has never gone lower than that.

In the past, this race used to have 43 cars attending. This number had been unchanged until the 2016 season, when NASCAR switched to using a charter system.

Under this system, 36 teams are given a "guaranteed" spot in the field, while the other 4 spots are decided through the qualifiers.

The biggest Daytona 500 field was in 1960, when 64 cars started the race. This was also the first Daytona 500 to be broadcast on live television. On that day, only 38 drivers made it to the finish line.

 

How Much Do You Get For Winning the Daytona 500?

NASCAR discontinued reporting winning prizes after the 2015 season, so it is unknown how much the 2022 race winner earned. However, the richest purse up to that point was the 2014 Daytona 500. The race-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. won $1,505.363 at the event worth more than 18 million dollars.

The first race of the Daytona 500 (1959) paid out $53,050. The winner's share was $19,050. if you take inflation into account, that's about $524,126 (total prize) and $188,211 (winner's prize).

In 1964, Richard Petty received $33,300 (equal to $306,052 in 2022) for winning the Daytona 500. The total prize on that day reached six figures for the first time, with a total payout of $100,750 (equal to $934,388 in 2022).

The first one million dollar purse was in 1985. By then, the winner's share had reached $185,500 (equal to $495,650 in 2022).

 

Who is the Greatest Driver in the History Of the Daytona 500?

Having won the Great American Race seven times, Richard Petty is considered as the greatest driver in the Daytona 500 history.

His very first win was in 1964. On that day, in 3 hours and 14 minutes, Petty crossed the finish line in his Plymouth (number 43). He won six other races in 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, and 1981.

"The king," as he's called, also holds the most records of the Daytona 500.

  • Most points races won (10)
  • Most starts (74)
  • Top fives (28)
  • Top 10s (37)
  • Top 20s (48).

 

What is the Fastest Daytona 500 Ever Run?

Buddy Baker won the 1980 Daytona 500 at an average speed of 177.602 mph, setting the record despite there being five caution flags for 15 laps.