The Daytona 500 is a 200-lap, 500 mile (805 km) NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is one of four restrictor plate races on the Cup schedule.
The Daytona 500 is widely considered to be NASCAR's most important and prestigious race, and has the largest purse, although it is equivalent to other races on the calendar for championship purposes. It is also the circuit's first race of the year; this phenomenon is virtually unique in sports, which tend to have championships or other major events at the end of the season rather than the start.
Since 1995, U.S. television ratings for the Daytona 500 have been the highest for any auto race of the year, surpassing the traditional leader, the Indianapolis 500.
The event serves as the final event of Speedweeks and is known as "The Great American Race" and the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing."
The winner of the Daytona 500 is presented with the Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane, and the winning car is displayed, in race-winning condition for one year at Daytona USA, a museum and gallery adjacent to Daytona International Speedway.