Why is the Daytona 500 so Hard to Win?

Written By Owen Bradley, Edited By Ishani Aziz


The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest event of the year and one of the toughest races to win in the world. It is undoubtedly in the Top 5 races in the Motorsport world: a physically-demanding, mentally-draining, and extremely challenging feat, it is arguably the most difficult racing championship to win.

Photo by Mark J Rebilas/USA Today Sports

The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest event of the year and one of the toughest races to win in the world. It is undoubtedly in the Top 5 races in the Motorsport world: a physically-demanding, mentally-draining, and extremely challenging feat, it is arguably the most difficult racing championship to win.


Just why is that? Among many reasons, it is because there are 40 cars, bumper to bumper, drafting (slipstreaming), bump-drafting together. All of these cars are attempting intentionally aggressive moves, and strategy choices both on track and in the pit lane. And this all goes on for 200 laps!


Drivers at the Daytona 500 have to carefully choose their line: whether to run high into the corner, take the better traction and momentum coming out of the corner, and hope that the side-drafting can carry them to the line first. They also have the other choice of holding down the inside line, controlling the track position, and arriving at the corner before the driver on the outside.


Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

However, they sacrifice their run down to the finish line, because they wouldn’t have momentum built up, but they do have the track position, and the final run to the line is on a banking as well, so the car on the inside gets to the line first. Therefore, if you’re on the outside line, you have to hope your car picks up enough momentum to carry you to the line first.


The Daytona 500 is so much more than just “Turning Left”. It also requires great patience, as not every gap is worth going for. In the ending to a lot of Daytona 500 races, either two or three lines begin to form, an inside train, an outside train and the middle line train.


Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Usually, manufacturers work together to ensure the best result, but you have to be very strategic with where you push, as you want to be bump-drafted by the people behind you, and you want to work your way to the front as well. If you’re further back, you’ve got a lot of ground to make up, but if at the front, you’ll be running side-by-side with another driver, or potentially even two drivers, for a long long time.


There are also the typical Motorsport strategy questions, of when to pit, how much fuel you want, and if you want fresh tyres as well, which is even harder for the Daytona 500, because the people around you are all less than two seconds back, so even the slightest miscalculation or pit lane error, could leave them way behind, which leads to the next point.


In the Daytona 500, you must remain within drafting distance of the people in front and behind, which is why you don’t want to make any major errors, and it’s another factor to consider whenever you try a move, as you don’t want to make contact with a wall, or another driver, because you have to stay within the draft (slipstream) distance.


Photo courtesy of NASCAR

In the Le Mans, Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500 races, it’s mostly about getting the best car setup for the weekend. Nascar is potentially much harder to win because winning it depends on a combination of strategy, teamwork, intelligence and bold moves. It is made more difficult because of the crashes in front of the drivers, adding more obstacles to those attempting to cross the finish line.


But what do you think? Is the Daytona 500 the trickiest race to win? Let me know in the comments below!

Courtesy of Peter Casey / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

But what do you think? Is the Daytona 500 the trickiest race to win? Let me know in the comments below!

 

If you’d like to give me any feedback - or just talk pure racing - then please leave a comment below, or you could get in contact by following my Instagram:

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