Known as “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500 places 43 of the best stock car drivers in the world together on the same track for the ultimate prize: the title of Daytona 500 champion after your name. Unlike nearly every other sport where the penultimate event is at the end of the season, in NASCAR you have to come out of the gate hot to win the most desired title short of season champion. Speaking of champion, Jimmie Johnson, who strung together enough accomplishments to be named the AP’s 2009 Male Athlete of the Year, will be kicking off the hunt for his fifth consecutive NASCAR championship title at the Daytona 500.

©Katy Warner/Flickr

Everyone may come to see the big names on race day, but what makes the Daytona 500 such a spectacular race event is the unparalleled access fans get to the drivers and to the track. In the recently remodeled pit row, fans can stand practically in the same garage as their favorite driver. Throughout the week, there are special meet and greet sessions, exhibits and other races to enjoy. Plus there are special opportunities to become part of the storied history of the super speedway, such as signing your name on the start-finish line.

©Nancy Nally/Flickr

So how do you get in on this action? Well, first you have to secure a hotel room in the Daytona area. Last Minute Travel has not only some of the best hotels in the Daytona area, but also the best deals too. The big race is on February 14th this year (how sweet!), but qualifying actually starts on February 4th, with February 10th kicking off the final week of practice and races. Don’t forget that this year there’s a new 1pm EST start time for the race. That will leave you more time to party afterward, or perhaps get started on the next leg of your vacation at the theme parks in nearby Orlando.

©Nancy Nally/Flickr


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