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2011 NASCAR Schedule: How The Daytona 500 Stacks Up

For those new to NASCAR, you may be wondering why the Daytona 500 is called "NASCAR's Super Bowl." After all, the Super Bowl is at the end of the NFL season, where the Daytona 500 is the first race of the year.

So how could the Daytona 500 be the biggest race of the season?

Tradition, history and the venue, mostly. While there are a couple other major events on the NASCAR schedule, nothing else really comes close to Daytona.

Here's our unofficial list of the top races of the NASCAR season:

1. Daytona 500: It's the "Great American Race," and NASCAR's signature event. The buildup and hype for the new season certainly contribute, but the very name "Daytona" is just as recognized as NASCAR itself.

2. Brickyard 400: Though Daytona is NASCAR's home base, the greatest racetrack in the United States is the 100-year-old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Because the famous Indianapolis 500 is steeped in tradition that far pre-dates NASCAR itself, IMS itself has become a legendary place. NASCAR is still a relative newbie at the Brickyard, but every driver wants to win there.

3. Coca-Cola 600: NASCAR's answer to the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend was to create the longest oval-track race in the world, and the 600 is one of the most prestigious events on the schedule. That the race is in Charlotte – home to most NASCAR teams – only adds to the importance.

4. Southern 500: The original Labor Day tradition is now in May, but drivers still consider the 500-mile race at rural Darlington Raceway in South Carolina to be a crown jewel of the sport.

5. Sprint All-Star Race: This non-points event pays $1 million to win, which seems to get the drivers revved up more than usual. And since All-Star race winners are often remembered, heading to Victory Lane at this Charlotte race is a desirable achievement.

Other biggies:

-- Bristol "Night Race" in August

-- Richmond Chase cutoff race in September

-- Any race at Talladega

-- July race at Daytona

-- Championship race at Homestead-Miami