Daytona 500 was super, but don’t call it Super Bowl of racing

col-cathyelliottAm I the only one who gets a little annoyed when I hear the annual “Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of NASCAR” analogy?

All of you football and stock car racing diehards out there are cordially invited to correct me if I’m wrong, and I know from experience that many of you will enthusiastically take me up on that offer. But let’s think about this statement for a minute. It sounds cool and everything, but is it really accurate?

By definition, bowl games are end-of-season matchups played by two teams who have earned their right to be there over the course of a full competitive season. To my knowledge, football is the only sport that really embraces the bowl system, unless you count the canine kingdom’s Puppy Bowl … and really, how could you not? It’s adorable.

Anyway, it seems to me that NASCAR’s PR machine is sort of working against itself. In 2004, the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship system was introduced. The Chase was designed to create a playoff format akin to other professional sports, in which all the eligible teams duke it out over the course of several months, gradually working their way up through the ranks until a fraction of them – and by “a fraction” I mean two — earns the right to compete for the title.

For the most part, the Chase has been successful. Granted, it’s a little hard to keep up, since NASCAR’s rules and championship format seem to change every year, but we know that when the final race rolls around, four teams will be battling it out at Homestead Miami Speedway for the title. We have seen some close contests over the years, and overall it’s been pretty exciting to watch.

Still, race number one on the NASCAR schedule eclipses race number 36 every single year. The question is, why? To get the conversation going, let’s make a short list of things the Daytona 500 is not.

It is not the most historic race in NASCAR. That honor belongs to the one and only Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. (I’ll pause here for a moment while you roll your eyes over the fact that I am an absolute homer where Darlington is concerned, and totally unapologetic about it.) Without Darlington blazing the trail, Daytona’s wagon might never have kicked up any dust. The Buck Bakers and Curtis Turners of the world were hoisting trophies and kissing pageant queens in Darlington’s victory lane nearly a decade before the first green flag flew over the Daytona 500.

Daytona International Speedway is big, but it isn’t NASCAR’s longest track. Talladega Superspeedway holds the bragging rights on that one.

The Daytona 500 isn’t even the sport’s longest event, as anyone who has ever sat through the Memorial Day weekend race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will confirm. If reading War and Peace is still on your literary bucket list, you can easily accomplish this during the Coca-Cola 600. I did, and I don’t even read that fast.

What, then, is the big deal about the Daytona 500?

Money, for starters. As of the start of the 2016 season, NASCAR has stopped disclosing its payouts for Sprint Cup Series race winners. Hmm. What we do know is that Joey Logano, last year’s Daytona 500 champion, toted home a purse of over $18 million. Not a bad day’s work.

Rather than being a standalone event, the Daytona 500 is the culmination of a flurry of on-track activity known as Speed Weeks, which whets the appetites of race fans who have suffered – oh, how we suffered – through more than two months of silence.

Also, the Great American Race is a thriller, with high speeds, spectacular crashes and lots of pomp and circumstance. On Feb. 21, it added a little icing to its cake by managing to conjure up a last-lap charge and an unexpected pass that sent Denny Hamlin to victory lane in the closest finish in Daytona International Speedway’s history. With that victory, Hamlin also won a spot in the 10-week Chase for the Sprint Cup, during which 16 drivers will be winnowed down to the four who will duke it out for the championship at Homestead.

Honestly, it was exciting stuff, and now I grudgingly must admit that I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season plays out, and that I have basically beaten myself in my own argument.

It wasn’t exactly a bowl, but it was pretty darned super.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at cathyelliott@hotmail.com.

Week 0: Chiefs top Tigers; Sharks beat Lions at horn

Week 0: Chiefs top Tigers; Sharks beat Lions at hornMatt Reel sighed more than once when talking about his [more]

Two Coast FA boys teams crowned Triangle champs

Two Coast FA boys teams crowned Triangle champsTwo Coast FA boys teams returned home as champions from [more]

Six former Pelicans make big-league leap to Cubs

Six former Pelicans make big-league leap to Cubs The distance from Myrtle Beach’s TicketReturn.com Stadium to Chicago’s Wrigley [more]

Chiefs try to stay hungry, humble in title repeat bid

Chiefs try to stay hungry, humble in title repeat bidThe only thing harder than winning a state championship is [more]

Stormy weather big winner at CNB Kickoff Classic

Stormy weather big winner at CNB Kickoff ClassicTwo blowouts, a lightning delay and ultimately three of the [more]

Coast FA boys kick off fall season with strong outing

Coast FA boys kick off fall season with strong outingFive Coast FA boys teams entered the Charlotte Invitational over [more]

Hemingway follows family, teammates to Gamecocks

Hemingway follows family, teammates to GamecocksSix minutes after his youngest child had announced his college [more]

MB Track & Field Club set for cross country season

MB Track & Field Club set for cross country seasonBuilding on the success of the track and field season, [more]

Seahawks, Trojans, Chiefs in preseason football poll

Seahawks, Trojans, Chiefs in preseason football pollDefending state champion Myrtle Beach opened the 2019 preseason as [more]

Ten beach games that add fun to the sand, surf, sun

Ten beach games that add fun to the sand, surf, sunThe Grand Strand’s 60-mile strip of sand and surf is [more]

New blood infuses lineup for '19 Beach Ball Classic

New blood infuses lineup for '19 Beach Ball ClassicIt’s been quite some time since this much new blood [more]

Gray becomes first Chant to win SCGA Amateur title

Gray becomes first Chant to win SCGA Amateur titleCoastal Carolina rising sophomore Tyler Gray carded four-straight rounds of [more]

Renfrow comes full circle before making run at NFL

Renfrow comes full circle before making run at NFLThe past six months have been hectic ones for Hunter [more]

Surfoff makes waves for fun times, worthy cause

Surfoff makes waves for fun times, worthy causeThe water is a second home for August Powalie. The Myrtle [more]

Jordans go coast to coast for Junior Olympics meet

Jordans go coast to coast for Junior Olympics meetIt has been a long and winding trip to California [more]

Local teams look ahead to 30th CNB Kickoff Classic

Local teams look ahead to 30th CNB Kickoff ClassicConway National Bank will sponsor the 30th annual CNB Kickoff [more]

CAC swimmers team up to capture six state titles

CAC swimmers team up to capture six state titlesSouth Carolina Swimming welcomed almost 800 swimmers from 25 Swim [more]

Surfers hang 10 for 20th Guy Daniels Memorial

Surfers hang 10 for 20th Guy Daniels MemorialAs surfers prepare to hit the South Strand this weekend [more]

Six MBTFC athletes make National Junior Olympics

Six MBTFC athletes make National Junior OlympicsThe Myrtle Beach Track & Field Club was represented by [more]

Beach volleyball growing on Grand Strand sand

Beach volleyball growing on Grand Strand sandWhat was once a leisurely pick-up game on the beach [more]

NMB boys hoops hopeful Walker in it for long haul

NMB boys hoops hopeful Walker in it for long haulNorth Myrtle Beach believes Ryan Walker is the person to [more]

Injury halts former Chant La Stella's All-Star debut

Injury halts former Chant La Stella's All-Star debut Former Coastal Carolina standout and Los Angeles Angels second baseman [more]

Pelicans well represented at All-Star Futures Game

Pelicans well represented at All-Star Futures GameMyrtle Beach Pelicans’ catcher Miguel Amaya has been selected to [more]

Baseball bonds all ages at Legends for Youth Clinic

Baseball bonds all ages at Legends for Youth ClinicEight former big leaguers - and about 60 aspiring ones [more]

Jordans lead MBTFC to wins at Junior Olympics

Jordans lead MBTFC to wins at Junior OlympicsThe Myrtle Beach Track & Field Club was represented by [more]

Week 0: Chiefs top Tigers; Sharks beat Lions at horn

Week 0: Chiefs top Tigers; Sharks beat Lions at hornMatt Reel sighed more than once when talking about his [more]

Two Coast FA boys teams crowned Triangle champs

Two Coast FA boys teams crowned Triangle champsTwo Coast FA boys teams returned home as champions from [more]

Comments are closed.

© 2019 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach