All of the races pay the same amount of championship points. Each one of the 36 events counts as much as any other when deciding the Cup winner. But some have a little extra sparkle. Some get us jazzed up with anticipation more than the rest. Whether it is honorable history, high-paying prize money, or an aura of excitement, some races are just more special.
1. Daytona 500 The Great American Race is the only event on the circuit where winning grants you a title for the rest of your life. The mainstream media pays more attention to the race winner than the series champion. Some sports fans that watch only one automobile race per year make it this one. Those same folks may not have ever heard of Dover, Delaware, but they know the Daytona 500.
2. Brickyard 400 The race does not have a history of door-banging finishes that make up stock car lore. But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hallowed ground to American motorsports. The Brickyard is known around the world in the same league as Le Mans and Monte Carlo. Anything that happens at Indy is huge. This is a racetrack to be revered and the privilege of racing here should be respected
3. Charlotte 600 An extra 100 miles can make all the difference. This race is close to the same distance that European sports car endurance contests are held. Charlotte Motor Speedway trailblazed fan amenities, chrome, glass, and polish as facility standards. The Memorial Holiday date emphasizes its big race status.
4. Southern 500 Darlington Raceway was NASCAR’s first superspeedway. This race was one of the stepping stones in stock car racing’s evolution that brought it forward to a major league sport. If the 500 was held on Labor Day weekend, which is still its proper place, the prominence would be that much grander.
5. Bristol’s Night Race Still one of the special shows every year that many look forward to. So what if tickets are easier to come by nowadays? It is a fun, cool race that is exciting and fans have a great time.
6. Miami 400 The Championship is decided here. If it were not the year’s final event, these laps would fall in with a dozen other races. Homestead has great weather and a fine track. The date placement elevates the race.
7. Richmond’s September 400 I am not a fan of The Chase. I believe it is manufactured excitement. But here it is and this is how the title is decided. Richmond decides the teams that will race their way to the big trophy in Miami.
8. Talladega’s Spring 500 Memories of the former Winston Million program include the Winston 500. The race has been rebranded over the years but Talladega will always be highly anticipated. The fast superspeedway’s first race each year is counted down from the time the haulers are loaded to leave Daytona in February.
9. Daytona 400 Any sporting event held while celebrating America’s Independence elevates the atmosphere. Daytona International Speedway doesn’t stage any small races. Nighttime 200-mph drafting combined with fireworks on and off the track make up a recipe for a big event.
10. Charlotte’s Fall 500 A home game is important to the teams. Fans make vacations out of visiting race shops and then seeing the teams in action. Charlotte is known for big productions. Like Daytona, both of their Cup races make this top ten list.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)