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An Open-Invitation To Non-NASCAR Fans To Watch The Daytona 500

So, you're not sure how you're going to spend this evening? No plans? No silly TV show? No good movie?

Here's an open invitation to all of you who have never watched NASCAR racing to give it a try and tune into the Daytona 500 at 7 p.m. Eastern on FOX. Just give our sport a shot, and I'll guarantee that any misconceptions you might have will be blown clear out the window faster than Carl Edwards' pole speed for this year's Great American Race.

Our sport isn't just about guys driving in circles for three and a half hours. The level of preparation and strategy that goes into one 500-mile stock car race surpasses what you would find in the average NFL or MLB game. There are 43 teams in tonight's event, and each of them will have their own story to tell.

If you want to talk competition, no sport comes remotely close to providing what NASCAR has to offer. Realistically, there are 35 or 38 teams in tonight's field that can win the Great American Race. They may win it by outright speed, they may win it by survival, as the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series winners achieved their triumphs this past weekend, and they might win it by out-strategizing their rivals.

And if you think this isn't a true sport and that anyone can drive a 3400 lb stock car at speeds in excess of 195 MPH for four hours with no problem, think again. Most folks have problems driving one quarter of that speed in a relatively tame environment, not in a high-banked turn where g-forces are trying to shove you out the right-side window. And this isn't a little Honda Civic that goes wherever you want to. This is a 750-horsepower beast that doesn't want to turn when you hit the corners.

There is no air conditioning, no comfy leather seats, either. Instead you're sitting in molded carbon fiber and baking at around 120 degrees. There are no half-time breaks; only weather or a red-flag for a severe accident can stop a race. Even under caution and on pit road, drivers run about 55 MPH. Pit stops take about 13-15 seconds, and if you think that's rest time, you're wrong. Drivers have to keep their car clutched, focusing on not stalling the car and getting out of their pit stall as quickly as possible once the jack drops.

And if something goes wrong, you go hurtling into a wall at near full speed. No linebacker in his wildest dreams can hit as hard as a wall at a race track. The walls utilize energy-reduction technology and head-and-neck restraints keep a driver's head from whipping forward and devestating the brain stem, causing instant death, but there's no way around it: slamming a wall in a race car hurts.

Driving a NASCAR stock car by yourself requires immense physical and mental endurance and downright guts. Throw 42 competitors into the mix, all seeking the same goal as you - the trophy and the big check - and you have an unparalleled exercise in human performance.

So now that I've given you a brief idea of what our sport is all about, how about tuning in and seeing for yourself everything that goes into a stock car race. I guarantee, you'll find yourself entertained. You might even find yourself joining the 75 million-plus NASCAR fans around the globe. Yes, the globe, NASCAR is far from a redneck's diversion from their kinfolk. It's a worldwide phenomenon and there's plenty of room on the bandwagon if you would like to hop on board.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.