UNDERDOG REPORT: The Great American Race – The Daytona 500 – An Experience to Enjoy | Joe Hoft


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UNDERDOG REPORT: The Great American Race – The Daytona 500 – An Experience to Enjoy


The Daytona 500 – An Experience to Enjoy

One week after the Superbowl (Actually one week and a day due to a rain delay) the Great American Race, the Daytona 500, 2024 took place in Daytona Beach. I thoroughly enjoyed it as someone who never attended any car race of any kind in my life.

The 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway track is home to this event each year and drivers complete 200 laps to reach the the end of the race. It is an amazing site to see cars traveling at this high speed and to cover the 2.5-mile loop from about 50 to 55 seconds! There is never a dull moment, between lead changes and the dangerous, but exciting, crashes that happened each year.

It was a sellout this year with the stands able to hold about 123,500 fans, but they also add seats on the grounds and other places.  Some estimates the total attendance this year was between 150,000 and 175,000 fans.  The highest capacity football stadium, by comparison, in the United States is Michigan Stadium with 107,601 seats.[1]


The Daytona 500 is not really a one-day affair, but spanned 6 days this year, from Wednesday until Monday, February 19th. Many people are allowed to camp there for the weeklong events. These includes qualifying races, races to determine pole positions, and what you could call “minor league” races. These are races drivers must compete in at to earn enough points to compete in a race the caliber of the 500. It is an event people travel from all over the world to experience, and there are many people who repeatedly attend every year. There are concerts and many other events that take place on the grounds of the Speedway and nearby areas, like a concert being given by a talented popular music Navel band, in full dress, across the street from the speedway on Wednesday.

There was also Pre-Race Concert, right before the race, by performer Pitbull right on the grass of the speedway. Known as Mr. Worldwide, Pitbull is also co-owner of Trackhouse Racing.

I was very blessed, that in front of all of these many thousands of fans, they had a pastor deliver a Christian prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ (Image that?). Not a single complaint was voiced, although NBC, who aired the event, did not broadcast the prayer.

There was also the multiple Jet Flyovers by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. They circled around a number of times and performed various maneuvers. This was their 14th consecutive season (Thank goodness they did not collide with the Good Year blimp also there and providing excellent camera shots of the race from the sky😮). They fly at about 400 miles an hour and I am not sure what as louder, the race cars, or the jets. The Race organizers made sure to honor those in service for our country in the pre-race announcements. This was another blessing.

The Grand Marshal for this year’s everts was no other than Dwayne Johnson (did someone say he dropped the nickname ‘the Rock’ since Jesus really is the Rock? 😇).[2] The Grand Marshal is the person who has the honor of voicing the famous phrase “Gentleman, start your engines” (Although there have been female drivers in past Daytona 500’s, there were not any this year. In addition, there wasn’t any ‘self-identifying” female drivers either). Dwayne also rode in the official pace car. The fans were excited to have him there and many would have liked for him to speak a bit more than he did.


The Daytona 500 has taken place every year since 1959 when Lee Petty won with the average speed of 135.521 mph.[3] Interesting to note that Lee’s son Richard Petty won the Daytona 500 an unprecedented 7 times, starting just six years after his father won the first 500! Richard won the Daytona 500 in 1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, and 1981. The only person coming even close to Richard, is Cale Yarborough who won the race four times in 1968, 1977, 1983, and 1984.


This year’s average speed was 157.178 miles per hour for the entire 500 miles. The race was more tactical rather than one concentrating on raw speed. You can see this when you compare Buddy Baker’ record for fastest Daytona 500 with an average speed of 177.602 mph set 44 years ago in 1980. He finished the 500 miles in 2 hours, 49 minutes, (That is almost 3 miles a minute!).[4] This is more than 20 miles an hour faster than the 2024 race, which was 3 Hours, 11 minutes, a 22-minute gap, enough time for a leisurely coffee and donut break☕️🍩.

It was an amazing site to see cars traveling at this speed and to cover the 2.5-mile loop from about 50 to 55 seconds!  This year’s Daytona 500 winner, his first, is ‘Follower of Christ’ William Byron (@WilliamByron). Sports Spectrum reported:

Byron realizes that God has brought him here ultimately for His glory. Byron: “I’m just extremely blessed.”’[5]

Byron said to Sport’s Spectrum in 2019 and CNS News in 2018:

“I grew up Christian with my family being Christians and taking me to church. That was a big part of my childhood,” [6]

“Getting into racing was God’s plan for me,” Byron told CNS News in  2018, “so I can spread my faith through the racing garage and with race fans.”[7]


One of the unusual things about this year’s race was the last lap, the 500th lap. As mentioned, there was more concentration this year was on tactics, not speed.  When this happens, the chances of accidents tend to increase when the stake are high, and it could be the difference between a win and second place.

At the start of the 500th lap two drivers attempted to pass Byron at the same time leading to a multi-car crash.  In total, 12 of the original 40 drivers did not finish the race due to one of three accidents that occurred. The announcers, on the two gigantic screens larger than any football screen I have ever seen), proceeded to show a replay of the accident, and they seemed to forget that Byron and his teammate Alex Bowman, were still battling it out for the win. Byron and Alex  passed the finish line while the announcers were covering the accident. A bit anticlimactic.  But that is not all, there was controversy about the finish.


There is a NASCAR rule (as best as I understand) that freezes drivers positions when a Yellow Caution Flag is displayed (Usually during an accident). They do this to make sure no one rider improves their position or attempts to pass another at during this time, which is not considered racing time.  Some people believed Bowman was ahead of Byron when the Yellow Flag was first displayed. If this was true, Byron would have been required to cross the finish line with enough distance ahead of Bowman to compensate for the lead people believe he had at the Yellow Flag. But alas, the Good Year blimp and their camera crew came to the rescue with a picture that clearly showed Byron was in the lead, at the Caution Flag and at the Checkered Flag at the finish.

It was great to experience a truly American event, one devoid of wokeness or propaganda.  Everyone I came across, and I mean everyone, was polite and friendly, and were having a great time. It was enjoyable just to be around these Americans, where prayer and faith are not distained, but embraced.

God Bless America!

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[1] https://mgoblue.com/sports/2017/6/16/facilities-michigan-stadium-html

[2] 1 Corinthians 10:2-4 (KJV) 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1959_Daytona_500

[4] https://www.sportscasting.com/daytona-500-fastest-speed-record/

[5] https://sportsspectrum.com/sport/car-racing/2024/02/20/william-byron-1st-daytona-500-blessed/

[6] https://sportsspectrum.com/sport/car-racing/2024/02/20/william-byron-1st-daytona-500-blessed/

[7] https://sportsspectrum.com/sport/car-racing/2024/02/20/william-byron-1st-daytona-500-blessed/

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