The Daytona 500 Is Not Just a Race, It's a Breathtaking Experience

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The Daytona 500 Is Not Just a Race, It's a Breathtaking Experience
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

February, the month when some crazy little winged dude flies around playing havoc on people's hormones for that one special day.

This day of love is known as Valentine's Day. For avid NASCAR fans, once a year, the Daytona 500 becomes NASCAR's version of Valentine's Day.

The Great American Race, as it is known to us NASCAR fans, has more significance and a lot more meaning then some winged dude buzzing around, who is nothing more then some figment of our imaginations.

Instead of the sweet smell of roses prancing through the air, we get the sweet smell of rubber and gas clogging up our nostrils, while making our eyes water like some monsoon that just blew through them.

Instead of the sparkling, majestic brilliance of a finely cut diamond, we get the glistening pageantry and array of brightly painted race cars that make the Tournament of Roses Parade look like its being watched through a 1930s RCA/Victor black and white television set.

Instead of the sweet taste of candy, we get the sweet taste of our favorite driver, racing lap after lap around the 2.5-mile asphalt-covered gladiator ring known as the Daytona International Speedway.

Daytona has an energy level, which lingers months before the haulers make their way down International Speedway Boulevard.

We wait three months to once again feel the heart-stomping, spine-tingling, side-by-side, crash-filled, adrenaline-pumping, hanging by the edge of your seat, non-stop racing action, which this race manifests in the fans from sea to shining sea.

No other race on the schedule gets the fans so pumped up, that you feel as though your veins are about to burst right out from under your skin.

So much suspense and action around every left turn, that you can feel the sensation of the drivers' emotions as they press harder and harder to get the most out of their fuel-burning, fire-breathing speed demons.

Expectations run high, as each driver comes out of their offseason slumber to get ready for the biggest race of the year.

Along with that sweet sensation of victory, also comes the bittersweet, tear-filled eyes of defeat.

How many times have you stood and cheered for your driver, only to have your heart ripped away by the racing gods?

The Intimidator knew that feeling all to well. Many times, he looked forward to the day when he would get his chance to defeat a track that was his worse adversary.

Daytona has always had a mind of its own. It loves to test the driver's skills against its high-banked corners and long straightaways that are just as intimidating as victory itself.

Daytona has always been a track that not only challenges the driver's mentality but also their keen sense of judgment and hunger to take the risky chances, knowing that a victory here is worth its weight in gold.

Daytona is known for some very memorable finishes. It has also given drivers who have gone winless their whole career the chance to shine and  stand above the rest.

After over 400 race starts without a win, Michael Waltrip was able to defeat all odds and get his first cup win back in 2001.

It only took him two years to get win No. 2 at NASCAR's most famous track.

We can also look back to the beginning of the 2007 season, and the controversial finish that gave Kevin Harvick his first Daytona victory over the sentimental favorite Mark Martin, who had just switched teams after driving 18 years for Jack Roush.

It took Roger Penske 25 years to finally get his first Daytona victory. He watched his drivers battle year after year for one of the most coveted wins in the NASCAR racing series.

Penske was finally able to shake the bad karma. He watched his two drivers, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman, pull off a very impressive win in 2008. A very unselfish Busch pushed Newman over the stripe to take the win.

There have been many sweet memories that Daytona has shared with the fans throughout the years. But with every good memory, there are those that not only bring tears to our eyes but also the heartache that usually follows.

The Bonnett family knew that side of Daytona all to well. While their loved one, Neil, was practicing for the 500 back in 1994, Daytona got greedy and took the life of one of NASCAR's most beloved drivers.

The death of Bonnett would not only affect the whole racing world, but it also cut to the heart of one of NASCAR's most popular drivers of that time, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Daytona began feeling generous again in 1997, when Jeff Gordon visited victory lane three times within a nine-year span. His last Harley J. Earl Trophy came in 2005.

It didn’t take long for the speedway to once again flex its powerful muscle. In 2001, Daytona's evil side once again manifested itself.

The asphalt monster took one of NASCAR's biggest stars in a wicked display of selfishness. Daytona would have it no other way when she took the life of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

For some unseen reason, Daytona felt that no other track would have the honor of gobbling up the sports biggest star. So Daytona made the call that it was Earnhardt’s time, and she wanted the seven-time champion all to herself.

In our hearts, we all have our own special memories, along with the expectations that truly make this a one-of-a-kind event in the eyes of NASCAR fans around the world.

In the end, there is only one word that can describe Daytona: Awesome.

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