DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The excitement surrounding the 64th annual Daytona 500 is building as speedway officials announced this week that grandstand seating for the event in February is sold out. RV spaces are also sold out.
Speedway leaders say they are still tickets available for suites and the fan zone, but they also expect those to sell out before the race on February 20.
The Daytona 500 is considered the “Super Bowl of NASCAR” and is the most-watched race of the entire season. Last year more than 4.5 million people watched the race, even though it was delayed hours by rain.
Fans have come to expect a certain type of racing when they tune in to the Daytona 500. Typically there are large packs of cars, racing inches apart, where one mistake could spell disaster for dozens of drivers.
Testing at Daytona International Speedway this week involved just 17 cars, but you wouldn’t know that by watching the footage from testing. Drivers were racing, getting all they could out of the car. It’s perhaps a preview of what the Daytona 500 will look like this year with the new NextGen Car.
“I am confident it’s going to produce some great storylines and some great action,” said Speedway President, Frank Kelleher.
An estimated 10,000 fans showed up to watch the test. So what’s behind all the excitement?
The 2022 Daytona 500 will be the first time NASCAR’s Next Gen car has raced for a points-paying trophy. Testing this week helped shake the car down and gave fans an idea of what to expect. The fastest average speed in the new car was more than 195 MPH.
“To me, I have watched great racing at 60 miles per hour. I don’t think it matters how fast you are going sometimes,” said driver, Joey Logano.
Don’t tell that to the brains behind the scenes setting up the cars that speed doesn’t matter. Behind the computer screens in the garage are somewhat secret changes aimed at getting ahead of the competition.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made multiple runs in the number 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports and experienced firsthand some of the changes the team made.
“They will make changes in the car aerodynamically to try and make the car go faster. It might make the car go faster down the back straightaway, but is it hurting the car in the corner? Am I having to turn the wheel more,” said Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr. has ruled out a return to the Daytona 500, saying the risk isn’t worth it anymore.
The Daytona 500 will air on FOX Charlotte on February 20 at 2:30 p.m.