For many Americans, Sunday night’s Super Bowl was one of the biggest sporting events of the year. People throw parties, spend ridiculous amounts of money on tickets – even to watch in the parking lot, and yet it does not seem like the main event of the year to this race fan.
The real Super Bowl in February is the one that kicks off in Daytona Beach, Fla. later this month – the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing. Started eight years prior to football’s first big game, the Daytona 500 has been one of the biggest sporting events for over five decades and continues to thrill fans both in person and on their televisions and radios. Yet for some reason, the Super Bowl seems to continue to steal all the glory, but is it justified?
For one, there are 32 teams across the National Football League, yet only two get to play in the Super Bowl. So, if your favorite team is already eliminated you have no shot at winning the big game. What you are left with is a hope for a close game and not a runaway win by one team.
However, in the Daytona 500 there are 43 teams with fans and supporters hoping for the chance to celebrate that big win. Given the possibilities of restrictor plate racing and the unknowns of this year’s new pavement the opportunity to win is even greater.
The fast-paced action of racing at Daytona is something that cannot be compared to the stop-and-go play of the NFL. The constant jockeying back and forth, the bump drafting and the breakneck speeds provide constant action, whereas a football game takes time to develop and plays are separated by lulls of play calling, television time outs and pauses between quarters. In NASCAR, there is no half time show; there is no rest for the drivers – even under caution.
In terms of attendance, while NASCAR has seen its share of criticism over the past few seasons, there is no comparison with the number of people showing up to watch. Sunday night’s game in the state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium saw 103,219 total people in attendance, for an event that lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes.
Last year’s Daytona 500 – not counting time taken to repair the now infamous pot hole – took 3 hours and 47 minutes to complete and was seen by an estimated 175,000 fans in person. While some fans left the track during the lengthy repairs, Sunday’s Super Bowl was not without its inconveniences to fans either.
According to Associated Press, roughly 400 ticketholders were unable to watch the game from the stands because a section of seats had not been fully installed. The issue affected about 1,250 people, with most of those relocated, but the others were left watching the game on monitors without a seat.
This morning, stories of the Green Bay Packers victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the front page on newsstands and websites across the nation and even internationally. Yet, when the Daytona 500 is decided, the story is often relegated to the sports page. Sure, there is a string of television appearances and late night guest spots, but the winner of the Daytona 500 rarely gets the attention outside the racing world that the Super Bowl winner receives.
Call it nitpicky, call it being biased, call it what you will, but I cannot help but believe the Daytona 500 is more thrilling and more dramatic than any Super Bowl. In terms of the action of the track, the number of possible winners, the number of fans it draws and the history associated with it, the 500 is leaps and bounds above the Super Bowl. Now, if only the rest of the sports world could realize that.
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