Professional Auto Racing

  • NASCAR's biggest race of the year is the Daytona 500, and it's also the first race of the year. Imagine having the Super Bowl at the beginning of the football season instead of at the end.
  • Racing legend Richard Petty has 200 victories in his career, first on the all-time list. Of those 200, seven came at the Daytona 500.
  • The legendary Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 in 1998, in his 20th attempt. He was killed in a last-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500. His son, Dale, Jr., won it in 2004.
  • There are four major areas of auto racing — NASCAR (stock car racing), the Champ Car circuit (formerly IndyCar and CART), the Indy Racing League Circuit, and Formula One.
  • The Champ Car circuit and Indy Racing League were combined until 1996, when the Indy Racing League broke off and started its own league. The IRL kept rights to the Indianapolis 500.
  • The first Indianapolis 500 took place in 1911. It was won by Ray Harroun, who took the checkered flag with an average speed under 75 miles per hour. Current winners of the race now average anywhere between 140 mph and 186 mph.
  • Racers travel all around the world to compete in Formula One competitions. Sometimes, drivers begin in the Champ Car circuit and eventually move up to Formula One racing. The winningest Formula One driver ever is German Michael Schumacher, who passed Alain Prost's record of 51 victories in 2001 and continues his winning ways. He's won the Formula One championship seven times (including five years in a row—from 2000–2004!). Fernando Alonso of Spain was the champion in 2005–2006.
  • The 24 Hours of Le Mans has happened every year in Le Mans, France since 1923 (except from 1940 to 1948, when if was cancelled due to World War II). Teams of three (it used to be two) race for 24 hours to determine a winner. The first winner in 1923 averaged 57.21 miles per hour. Current winners average upwards of 135 mph.
  • Drag racers continue to break speed records almost as soon as they're set. Currently funny car and top fuel cars go in excess of 320 miles per hour!
  • The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is located in Novi, Michigan, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame can be found in Talladega, Alabama. They are not just for auto racing but also for all other motorsports as well, like motorcycle, power boat, and air racing.
Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon
AP Photos

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