The Daytona 500.
The Great American Race.
The launching pad for the 2013 Race for the Sprint Cup.
The event that unseated the Indianapolis 500 as America's crown jewel of automotive sports competition.
It's this Sunday, and Crave Online will be there for s special, behind the scenes VIP look at the weekend's entire NASCAR experience with a series of articles, piles of photos and reels of exclusive video.
Leading into Sunday's race, the talk of NASCAR fans – and the entire sports world – is pole winner Danica Patrick. She made NASCAR history during Coors Light Pole qualifying, becoming the first female driver to win a pole at the Sprint Cup Series. That obviously makes her the first woman to start at the top of the field for the 500, also.
During qualifying, Patrick turned a lap of 196.434 mph (45.817 seconds — the fastest Daytona 500 pole-winning speed since 1990). The previous best starting position for a female in the Daytona 500 was 18th by Guthrie in 1980.
There are certainly other stories drawing interest — such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s exploding engine and lack of qualifying laps — but Patrick's performance and her shot at the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award will be the lead headline going into Sunday because the last Daytona rookie to win the 500 pole was Jimmie Johnson in 2002. I'll have to look up some stats to see whatever became of him.
Regardless of whether Patrick wins, her presence on the front row has fans and media types speculating about everything from her tiny stature and petite weight giving her an advantage to whether her pole win was somehow a fix to promote NASCAR more into the mainstream.
That latter theory is so asinine as to bugger belief. Even if Patrick hadn't won the pole — even if she wasn't even in the field — there's no safer bet than this weekend's race showing up prominently on every sports page and national scoreboard broadcast. NASCAR doesn't need to manufacture publicity the week leading up the Daytona 500.
Stay tuned to Crave Online for the weekend's featured race coverage and retrospective look at the entire experience next week.