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Get up to speed for NASCAR's Daytona 500. Here's what you need to know

The Great American Race starts at 2:30 here on FOX61
Credit: AP
Alex Bowman (88) and Jimmie Johnson (48) lead the field to start the second of two NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying auto races at Daytona International Speedway, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If you like fast cars and furious drivers, NASCAR's Daytona 500 is the event for you.

The 62nd annual race is this Sunday -- and it's basically the Super Bowl of stock car racing.

Here's what you need to know to enjoy the big day:

What is the Daytona 500?

The Daytona 500, also called the "Great American Race," kicked off in 1959. But it only became Nascar's season-opening race In 1982.

It's a 200-lap, 500-mile-long race held at the Daytona International Speedway. The winner takes home a replica of the Harley J. Earl Trophy and about $1.5 million.

The race, held in Daytona Beach, Florida, is particularly famous for its photo finishes and unfortunate wrecks.

How many drivers qualify?

Forty drivers qualify for the race. And of those 40, 36 spots are guaranteed through NASCAR's charter system to full-time Cup Series teams.

That leaves four spots available to non-charter teams. Two drivers locked in their spots at last Sunday's qualifier race, where they recorded the fastest speed among the group. Drivers had two laps to record their top speed.

And at Thursday's Duel at Daytona, a set of 60-lap,150-mile races, the drivers who finished with the best time earned the final two spots.

These same two events not only determined the last four spots at the Daytona 500, but every driver's overall placement in Sunday's race. This means all 36 drivers competed in the two events along with the non-chartered drivers who wanted a spot.

How fast do the cars go?

Buddy Baker holds the record for the fastest winning speed at 177.602 mph in 1980. But drivers don't always have to drive that fast to win.

In 1960, Junior Johnson won with the slowest average speed at 124.740 mph.

What were some historical moments?

The first Daytona 500 took place on February 22, 1959. Lee Petty, who has the most wins in this event (7), beat Johnny Beauchamp.

And Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in this event in 1977, finished 11th in 1980.

But one of the saddest days in sports took place at the 43rd Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001, when seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt crashed and died on the final lap of the race.

Where can I watch the Daytona 500?

Catch all the action this Sunday on FOX at 2:30 p.m. ET. It has been the only place to watch the race for the last 13 years.

You can also watch on several paid streaming services, including Hulu+ Live TV, YouTube TV and AT&T TV Now.