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What you need to know before the Daytona 500

NASCAR preview: What you need to know before the Daytona 500

Be honest. You have no clue what happens for three-plus hours when all those NASCAR drivers are spinning around making left turns at Daytona International Speedway.

No worries. We are here to help.

We enlisted the help of some pretty influential folks to help answer some pressing questions that may come to mind.

And don’t worry. There won’t be a quiz later.

But it may make your Daytona 500 experience a bit more entertaining.

Remember, knowledge is power.

What happens if you get hungry or thirsty during a 500-mile race. It’s not like you can go through the drive-thru?

Jimmie Johnson, 6-time Sprint Cup champion:

“No, you can’t. And I do eat in the car and drink. Gatorade has invented a really cool hydration system that’s in the car. It keeps my Gatorade cold. I keep a little glove box on the side. Different bars. Something with some sugar in it for energy.

“If I really need something to eat, they can hand in something through the door and, believe me, I’ve had a sandwich or two passed in over the years.

“On the pit stops, when they’re changing the right-side tires, they’ll put stuff on a pole and hand it through the door and I’ll get it in the car and run.”

What constitutes a super-speedway, and can you take us through a lap at this track?

Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway:

“What’s interesting is that at Daytona, we’re one of the tracks that limit speed, which is a little bit counter-intuitive to what you think is racing. In racing, you want to go faster than the next guy. But due to the configuration of the cars, the horsepower and the high-banked nature of a race track, the speeds here would be soooo fast, it wouldn’t be the best situation for a race or our fans, so they actually put restrictor plates on the engines. It limits the air flow that goes in the engine, which limits the horsepower, which limits the speed.

“So typically they’re running around this race track at around 200 miles an hour, which we think is the right speed to race at a 2 1/2-mile super-speedway, but it is a little bit counterintuitive that we limit the speed at race tracks for this race and at Talladega.”

Can you describe the physical demands of driving in the Daytona 500?

Jamie McMurray, Daytona 500 champion in 2010:

“When we come to plate tracks,  it’s not as physically demanding as either the road courses or some other tracks we run. The heat is always a big deal here. Your feet get really hot because you never let off the gas pedal. The heat transfers through that and your feet typically get hot. This is probably the most mentally draining track because you’re constantly looking at the guys in front of you and behind you in the draft trying to figure out which lane you need to be in.”

What is it like to be involved in a crash in which you go flying in the air, as you did in 2013?

Kyle Larson, 2014 Sprint Cup rookie of the year:

“It’s not fun, for sure. You just hold on. And in that wreck, I just got out hoping that everybody in the stands was OK because I was fine. But you kind of hold your breath as a driver and you hope you stay safe along with everybody else.”

What’s the difference between a car being loose and a car being tight?

Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR Hall of Famer:

“It’s really quite simple. You’re going down the straightaway and if the car is pushing [the steering feels tight], you’re going to turn the wheels and the car is not going to turn and you’re going to hit the wall with the front of the car. So when you’re pushing, the car is straight and it doesn’t want to turn; it’s tight.

“When you’re loose, you’re going to go down the straightaway and when you get there, you’re going to start to turn left, but the back is going to come around. When it does, you’re going to hit the wall with the back of the car. It’s that simple.”

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