DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- Bigger, better and a whole lot faster.
That's what Bill France Sr. wanted for NASCAR and his new track -- a massive 2.5-mile, high-banked oval that dwarfed the other circuits yet underwhelmed drivers.
What many feared would be a big Daytona dud became "The Great American Race" and the site of the sport's greatest lore.
Today marks the 50th edition of the Daytona 500, where heartache, occasional four-wide racing and the almost inevitable dramatic finish have transfixed racing fans.
"If you look at it, what makes Daytona Daytona is Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts, Bill France Sr., Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Petty," said Kyle Petty, whose grandfather, Lee, won the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959. "It's the guys who have won here. It's the history that's here."
Winning the Daytona 500 is a huge accomplishment for any driver. But, for some, it's the focal point of a career.
Michael Waltrip, who has only four career victories, got two of them in the 500.
"It's the race that has defined my career," Waltrip said. "Winning this race meant everything to me."
It means everything to NASCAR.
"Indy's always going to always be Indy, but it's never going to be Daytona," Petty said. "This is always going to be our biggest race because this is where all our history is."
WHAT: 50th running of "The Great American Race"
WHERE: Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, Fla.
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. today
POLE SITTER: Jimmie Johnson
OUTSIDE POLE: Michael Waltrip
DEFENDING CHAMP: Kevin Harvick
TV: Fox-Ch. 54