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I'll start this off with a full disclaimer: I am not really into NASCAR. I've never sat down and watched a full race. I don't know any racer's names outside of the big names that permeate the ESPN headlines or the one's you hear from conversation with friends that are fans. I have almost zero vested interest in it's winners or its losers.
All that said, isn't the Daytona 500 interesting? I think it is. Here's why: even though I'm not a NASCAR fan (do they always capitalize the name like that? Not sure..), this race is significant in the sports world, which of that I am most certainly a fan. Most sports host their big event at the end of the season. The Super Bowl, NCAA Championship, the World Series... all these take place and the end. And these events are far and away the most watched and celebrated with their respective audiences. Good example, casual fans would never sit down to watch a Thursday night square off between the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and, say the Cleveland Browns (sounds boring even to a big NFL fan like myself), but they would most certainly tune in by the millions to watch the Super Bowl.
With the Daytona 500 though, the event starts off the the racing season. And since 1995, it's been the most watched racing event every year, by far. It's not just the most viewed NASCAR event either; it's the most watched automotive event each and every year, just to be clear. The way that NASCAR works (I've come to learn) is that this race is just one of the big four in NASCAR. Points are awarded in each of the big 4, and those points are tallied throughout the season, ultimately deciding the year's #1 driver.
For whatever reason, the Daytona 500 carries the most viewership, the most clout and the biggest purse (payoff/reward for the winners) of all of NASCAR's events. Can some fan please explain why this is? I could look it up on wiki, but a fan's explanation is always better.