NASCAR's 10 Can't-Miss Events of the 2013 Season

Christopher LeoneSenior Analyst IFebruary 12, 2013

NASCAR's 10 Can't-Miss Events of the 2013 Season

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    Got a few grand to spare?

    Got an RV?

    Got a burning itch to plan the best year-long NASCAR road trip ever?

    Here's your field guide to doing it right.

    This year, NASCAR's three national series will combine for 91 races: 22 in the Camping World Truck Series, 33 in the Nationwide Series and 36 in the premier Sprint Cup Series. Hitting dozens of tracks across the United States (and, once again this year, Canada), there's a good chance that no matter where you are, you'll have an opportunity to see some great action this year.

    But out of those 91 races, there are 10 in particular that stand out. Some are crown jewels of the sport, while others feature interesting driver lineups. For the first time in a long time, one of these races even takes place on a dirt track.

    So, if you've got a chance to get to any of these races—heck, even all 10—these are the dates you should circle on your calendar.

February 24: Daytona 500

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    Series: Sprint Cup Series

    Track: Daytona International Speedway

    The first race of the season, stock car racing's "Super Bowl," is the best chance for drivers to put a bad year behind them or start strong with a new organization. After winning two Daytona 500s in the past four years for Roush Fenway Racing, Matt Kenseth will attempt to win his third in his Joe Gibbs Racing debut.

April 14: N.C. Education Lottery 200

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    Series: Camping World Truck Series

    Track: Rockingham Speedway

    For the second time since Andy Hillenburg purchased the track, Rockingham will hold a CWTS race on the same weekend as Texas' Sprint Cup night race. With time trials and the race itself both held on Sunday, the hope is that a handful of Cup drivers will show up, as Kasey Kahne did when he won this race last year.

May 11: Bojangles' Southern 500

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    Series: Sprint Cup Series

    Track: Darlington Raceway

    Despite no longer occurring on Labor Day weekend, Darlington has reinvented its marquee event masterfully as a Saturday night event on Mother's Day weekend. Last year, this is where Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its first win of the season—the 200th of the organization's storied past.

May 26: Coca-Cola 600

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    Series: Sprint Cup Series

    Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway

    The conclusion of two weeks' worth of events in the sport's home hub, last year's 600-mile race marked Kasey Kahne's first win as a member of Hendrick Motorsports. Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick won't compete in the Indianapolis 500 directly before this race, as some had hoped, but that doesn't mean her first 600-mile race won't be exciting.

June 22: Sargento 200

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    Series: Nationwide Series

    Track: Road America

    Nationwide road course races always bring in a diverse group of drivers, including ex-CART stars like Max Papis and former Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve. Last year, Nelson Piquet Jr. scored his first NASCAR national series victory from the pole, cementing his status as a bona fide stock car driver after transitioning from F1 himself.

July 24: Inaugural Midsummer Classic

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    Series: Camping World Truck Series

    Track: Eldora Speedway

    In lieu of the "Prelude to the Dream," Tony Stewart's Ohio-based dirt track will host the first dirt race in CWTS history. With heat races likely and the presence of dirt-track regulars like Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace, as well as a handful of drivers from various other series (the race is being held on a Wednesday for that reason), this may be the most interesting race of the year.

August 3: U.S. Cellular 250

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    Series: Nationwide Series

    Track: Iowa Speedway

    Iowa has become a bona fide destination for the Nationwide Series, hosting two races per year since 2011. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has won three of the past four Iowa events, but with his promotion to the Sprint Cup level, there's room for a new king of the .875-mile track—maybe defending August winner Elliott Sadler.

August 24: Irwin Tools Night Race

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    Series: Sprint Cup Series

    Track: Bristol Motor Speedway

    Bristol's summer night race is always a test of drivers' tempers and ability to survive 500 laps of carnage. Last year, it was Denny Hamlin who tamed the half-mile bullring, while Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth wrecked each other out of the lead, inspiring Stewart to toss his helmet at Kenseth's car on pit road.

September 1: 1st Annual CWTS at CTMS

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    Series: Camping World Truck Series

    Track: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

    The trucks will head north of the border on Labor Day weekend, the first time in CWTS history that the series has headed to Canada. Held at the track formerly known as Mosport, also the first road course race for the series since June 2000 when Greg Biffle won a 62-lap event at Watkins Glen.

November 17: Ford EcoBoost 400

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    Series: Sprint Cup Series

    Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway

    Hendrick Motorsports won the battle, but Penske Racing won the war in last year's Sprint Cup finale. Jeff Gordon, a week after his incident with Clint Bowyer, took the win for Hendrick, while Brad Keselowski locked up Roger Penske's first Cup title; Hendrick title contender Jimmie Johnson, after an up-and-down race, finally saw his championship hopes go up in smoke—literally—with less than 50 laps to go.

    The hope is that it'll come down to the final lap this year.

    For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.