NASCAR: Insiders’ guide to the Daytona 500 – 7 things you need to know

Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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Denny Hamlin, NASCAR
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Is attending the Daytona 500 on your bucket list? Take a look at our detailed insider guide to attending NASCAR’s greatest race.

The word Daytona automatically conjures up images of lightning fast stock cars, beaches, palm trees, and of course, that glorious Florida winter weather. And if you’re a sports fan, and especially a NASCAR fan, it’s probably on your bucket list to one day go to the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

So say you decide to go. Now what? Won’t it be hard (and expensive) to go to NASCAR’s “Super Bowl”? Nope, not at all. In fact, it is probably the most fan-friendly (and affordable) of the major sports events.

Unfortunately, if you’re reading this now, it may be too late for this year. However, it’s never too early to plan for next year, to make it absolutely perfect!

Here are seven things you need to know about ahead of time.

Daytona 500 guide: No. 1 – Travel

When it comes to the Daytona 500, or any NASCAR event for that matter, the first thing you should do is secure your lodging and airplane tickets, if you need them.

Whether it’s camping, a hotel, or an RV in the infield, it really pays to do this as soon as possible. These are the items which have fluctuating prices and will see the sharpest rises in demand and price the closer race week gets. You should really start looking in the summer.

If flying, the nearest major airport is Orlando International Airport. If you’ve never been there, it is super busy. Because Orlando is one of the country’s major tourist destinations, it is jam-packed with travelers from all over the U.S. and the world.

If you have to secure a rental car, MAKE SURE you are picking it up at the airport. Some people (“people” meaning me) have made the mistake of renting a car at what I thought was a nearby town, but it was actually 45 minutes away.

When you fly back home, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get through security and catch your flight, as those lines tend to be very long, especially early in the morning.

Once you’ve landed and are speeding off in your rental car to the race, it is about an 80-minute  (give or take, with traffic) drive from the airport to Daytona Beach.

“Most” people elect to stay near the beach, as there is a wide array of lodging, entertainment and dining options. One thing to consider is that if you are staying on North Atlantic Avenue, there will be much more in the way of partiers and night activity. The further south you go towards Ormond Beach, the quieter it gets. And cheaper.

Insider tip: Staying in the infield of the track sounds great, but if you don’t also have a vehicle, you are kind of stranded, and if you plan to sleep in, the roar of the cars practicing may not help much.