TRACK WITH MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE FANS: CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
STROLL THROUGH the infield on race day, and virtually every fan can explain the differences between street cars and race cars, down to the air pressure in the tires and the aerodynamic drag of the vehicles. The Queen City is NASCAR's hub, and tens of thousands of diehards show up for races, even in heavy rain or sweltering heat.
CRAZIEST FANS: TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
EVER SEEN a shirtless Dale Earnhardt Jr. fanatic hold a beer in one hand and a five-foot long live snake in the other? Or a Tony Stewart backer jump over a fire pit clad only in underwear with the number 14 emblazoned on the derriere? The outer fields at Talladega the night before a race are NASCAR's version of the French Quarter—only with more smoke, more fire and, yes, even more half-naked humans.
BEST NON-CUP CUP EVENT
THE GATORADE DUELS
THESE TWO preliminary heats for the Daytona 500 often are more thrilling than the Great American Race itself. The finishing order in the 150-mile Duels, which take place three days before the main show, determines the starting positions for the 500 except for the top two spots, which go to the fastest two cars in qualifying. There are normally four or five openings in the 500 for drivers who must race their way in—meaning they haven't been awarded automatic entry based on points from the previous year—so the final laps of the Duels often feature some of the most daring driving of the entire season. A note to NASCAR: Please give us more qualifying races like the Duels.