The Daytona 500 is a 500-mile-long (805 km) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series motor race held annually at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is the first of two Sprint Cup races held every year at Daytona, the second being the Coke Zero 400. It is one of the four restrictor plate races on the Sprint Cup schedule. The inaugural Daytona 500 was held in 1959 coinciding with the opening of the speedway and since 1982, it has been the season-opening race of the Cup series.
The Daytona 500 is regarded as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar, carrying by far the largest purse. Championship points awarded are equal to that of any other Sprint Cup race. It is also the series' 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 which in turn greatly surpasses the Daytona 500 in in-track attendance and international viewing.
The 2006 Daytona 500 attracted the sixth largest average live global TV audience of any sporting event that year with 20 million viewers.
The race serves as the final event of Speedweeks and is sometimes known as the "Great American Race" or the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing". Since the first race, all 57 runnings of the Daytona 500 have been held in the month of February.
From 1971 to 2011, it was associated with Presidents Day weekend, taking place on the Sunday before the third Monday in February. Beginning in 2012, the race was pushed up a week, to the last Sunday of February.
Because of inclement weather conditions on February 26, the 2012 Daytona 500 was postponed until the evening of Monday, February 27, The 2013 Daytona 500 was held on February 24, the first time the race was held on the last Sunday of February.