Daytona 500

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Daytona 500,  the Great American Race comes round again this weekend. If you’re not into NASCAR, I should explain that it is a cornucopia of noise and speed, from pre-race music to high-powered engines, with colored flags waving on the track and the American flag all around.

It’s the home of people like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick.

Sunday’s 500-mile, 200-lap race starts at 1 p.m but this blog will first address some of the most popular questions that people ask.

What Does NASCAR Stand For?

National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, formed in December 1947 with the help of Daytona Beach’s Bill France Sr., who ran a local service station and promote local races.

There are three divisions: Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck series.

Sprint Cup is the top tier. The other two are developmental series.

Why is the Daytona 500 arguably NASCAR’s biggest race of the year?

The sport was founded in Daytona and the race has always been first on the schedule. It’s a combination of tradition, history, weather and marketing that makes it the great race it has become today.

What is the big deal with Danica Patrick?

Popularized by commercials, Patrick is an accomplished Indy Racing League driver. (She is the only woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and owns the highest finish by a woman, fourth in 2005). But she’ll make her NASCAR debut when she drives in Saturday’s Nationwide race (the DRIVE4COPD 300).

What happens if drivers have to go to the bathroom during a race?

That’s the No. 1 question fans ask, drivers said. And, yep, they go in their suits.

“I have only done it a couple of times in my career,” said Casey Mears, who has driven 252 Sprint Cup races. “You don’t get out and go to the bathroom. It doesn’t happen frequently.”

Veteran driver Jeff Burton agreed.

“If you’ve got to pee,” Burton said, “you just pee.”

What’s the deal with the cars?

Top drivers drive only only a Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry.

They typically weight  3,450 pounds without the driver.

Top speed is 200 mph.

Transmission is 4-speed.

What do the colored flags means?

Green flag: Go. It comes out at the start of the race and when caution period is over.

Yellow flag: Caution. Cars must slow to near-minimal speed. This comes out because of a hazard or a crash.

Black flag: Get off the track. It’s used when a driver breaks the rules or is driving a dangerous car.

White flag: One lap to go.

Checkered flag: The race is over … and we have a winner.

What is Bump Drafting?

Drafting = when two or more cars race nose-to-tail and the first car breaks the air, giving the second and third cars less resistance and making them all go faster than a single car.

Bump drafting occurs when one race car taps the back end of another car in front. That propels the first car ahead and the draft pulls the second car along, too. Done right, it’s racing at its most skillful. Done wrong, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

NASCAR instituted a no-bump-draft rule to make racing safer. But drivers and fans complained about how it made the races major snooze fests.

Last month, NASCAR lifted the regulation against bump drafting. It should make for more fun. And more wrecks.

“If you don’t bump draft the guy straight in front of you, it will cause a wreck. If he has his wheel turned to the left and you hit him, he can spin out,” said driver Elliott Sadler, a 12-year Sprint Cup veteran.

So that’s a brief round up… sit back and enjoy the race… and here’s Chris Rea’s “Daytona” to get you in the mood.

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