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Dustin Off the 2023 Daytona 500: 75 Years of NASCAR

It started with trying to outrun the law with some moonshine liquor, and grew into a worldwide phenomenon.  What seemed to be something that was strictly southern-born, and southern ran, has become something that has welcomed backgrounds from multiple forms of racing, and multiple interests.

Since 1959, one mecca of a facility has showcased the grandest event the sport can allow.  It’s seen nail-biters, shocking scenes, triumph, loss, anger and jubilation.

In 2023, both of these come together to celebrate one sport, one event, and one moment.

There is no doubt the heart and soul of NASCAR was born on those dirt roads, and soon hit the dirt tracks.  But, it was on the sandy beaches of Daytona when NASCAR found a home.  That home moved to a track just beyond the sand, now sitting just a drive away from the airport, sporting high banks, a familiar lake, and memories that have stood out from day one.

The first big event at this speedway had 59 drivers take a green flag, and did not slow down until 200 laps later when a checkered flag waved.  It took two more days to determine a winner, a photo finish that needed to wait till film was actually developed.

It was the site of the biggest wreck in the sport’s history, coming a year later after the inaugural event.  It’s where the muscle car wars took place, and where aerodynamics had drivers shifting makes within a manufacturer.  It’s where a father and son led the pack to the checkered flag, and a father seemingly “called his boy home” on national television to the checkered flag.  It’s where a 20-year-old got his first win for a historic team, and another saved just enough fuel to celebrate with an “Icky Shuffle.”

It’s the race where one man spent 19 years trying to win the big one, only to have fate step in to prevent it.  It’s the race where the same man saw every man from every crew congratulate him on finally getting the win that eluded him for so long.  Unfortunately, it’s also the race where the same man was stolen from this world, a moment we grieve about still 22 years later.

Former champions, hall of famers, rookies and experienced drivers have all seen their name added to the trophy.  Those that won sacrificed the winning car for 365 days, just so fans can walk into an attraction and see it, with every piece of rubber and confetti attached.

For 75 years, NASCAR has existed in the United States, expanding to have races in Canada, Mexico, and even exhibition races all the way in Japan.

For 64 years, the Daytona International Speedway has been the hosting track to start the season.  In 2023, worlds collide for both, because NASCAR has officially returned to determine who is the best on the track for another season.  Yet, so much preparation, so much anxiety, nerves and excitement go into the first event of the year.  Winning the championship at season’s end may make a driver and team’s year, but winning the “Great American Race” can truly make a driver’s career complete.

Some of the greats had it elude them their entire career, while others have a few to their name.  Rookies have won it, and seven-time champions.  Unknown drivers suddenly are thrust into the spotlight, all because they were the first to the checkered flag in the biggest race of the season.

We are not dusting off just another race.  We are not just dusting off another season.

This Sunday, we are dusting off NASCAR’s year-long celebration of it’s 75th year, and dusting off the 64th running of the sport’s biggest event.  It is time for the Daytona 500.

About Dustin Parks

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