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The Super Bowl Is The Daytona 500 of Football

Cathy Elliott
Sunday, February 3, 2008


Few events in sports rally the viewing masses like the NFL's Super Bowl.

Estimated television viewership for Super Bowl XLII (that means 42 for those of you not fluent in Roman numerology; I looked it up) tops out at one billion people worldwide. That's a nearly unfathomable number, and speaks volumes about the marketing and publicity juggernaut that this season-ending football championship game has become.

NASCAR's Super Bowl
It is all rather puzzling, though. While the vast majority of people participating in pre-game polls said they would certainly watch the game, and even predicted a winner, most confessed that they really didn't care that much about the outcome. The reason?

Because their team wasn't playing.

I like football a lot and my cranium is included in that one billion Super Bowl viewership head count.

But my name is also part of the list of people who really can't work up a lot of enthusiasm for the winning team. The only time I might care about this particular team would be if they were going head-to-head with my personal team of choice.

The Super Bowl has become more of a social occasion than a sporting event. Because of its phenomenal popularity, it has become the standard by which all other significant physical contests are judged.

While this is understandable, I suppose, I nevertheless find it a source of irritation when I hear people refer to the biggest and most prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the year--the legendary Daytona 500--as "NASCAR's Super Bowl."

I respectfully submit the theory that this is backwards reasoning.

Think about it. When the green flag waves to signal the start of the 50th running of the Great American Race, or “Daytona 500 L” if you prefer to use its Roman name, fans across the country and the world will witness the culmination of a half-century of grand and glorious racing tradition.

While no one has compared me to Euclid or Einstein in recent memory – okay, ever – even my limited ciphering skills can determine that L minus XLII equals VIII.

In English, this means the Daytona 500 has been around longer than the Super Bowl.

There are 63,400 permanent seats in the University of Phoenix Stadium, host venue of the 2008 Super Bowl. This number can be expanded to 73,000 for what are termed "mega events." We'll go ahead and assume the Super Bowl has "mega" status, so game attendance stands at 73,000 fans.

Grandstand seating capacity at Daytona International Speedway is around 168,000. This means that including the infield folks, approximately 200,000 fans will attend the Daytona 500, more than double the number at the Super Bowl.

In football, two weeks of hype and activity and media frenzy culminate in a single game. There's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait involved.

NASCAR's lead-in period starts with the Rolex 24 At Daytona, which at the age of 46 is also older than the Super Bowl, and includes ARCA events, NASCAR Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series events, the Gatorade Duel at Daytona, the Budweiser Shootout, and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying, all before the main match-up takes to the track.

This amounts to lots of hurry-up, but very little wait.

Individual interest in the Super Bowl can wane if the Redskins or Raiders, Cowboys or Colts fail to make the show.

This won't happen in the Daytona 500. In NASCAR, with very limited exceptions, every team plays every game. Regardless of who your favorite driver may be, he will have an opportunity to compete, and a chance to win.

If you're keeping score, you should have already realized that when these two major sporting events are compared head-to-head, the Daytona 500 is actually the winner in an impressive number of categories.

Perhaps the time has come to revise our thinking and do away with the term "Super Bowl of Racing." The Daytona 500 is perfectly capable of standing on its own reputation and doesn't need comparison to another sport in order to justify its significance.

In all fairness, though, the Super Bowl really is great fun.

You might even call it the "Daytona 500 of Football."

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