Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: When Daytona 500 Advertising & the Super Bowl Meet

Friends, Reel Racing is back to get you through the weird few days of limbo between the end of Super Bowl LVIII (which, as a Seahawks fan, I was rooting for Armageddon rather than either team) and the beginning of Speedweek at Daytona International Raceway.

As I put it to friends who aren’t as familiar with the schedule: “We’ve got qualifying Wednesday, twin qualifying duel races Thursday, Trucks Friday, Xfinity Saturday, Cup Sunday.”

That’s right, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Xfinity and Cup series are finally almost back in regular-season action after a few months away. I know I’m damn near ready to hear those engines again.

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Before that, though, let’s do something for this special little eight-day period in which the NFL’s actual Super Bowl and NASCAR’s theoretical Super Bowl bookend the days (hopefully, provided we can fight off the rain). NASCAR ads as a whole have pervaded our televisions for decades, but what ads have been specific to Daytona, what could they do for future ads and how have the commercials evolved over the years?

On the heels of sports’ biggest ad weekend, in which we saw memorable billboards for Mountain Dew Baja Blast, Paramount+ and Homes.com, let’s talk motorsports ads and look at a few highlights from over the years.

The first we’ll talk about, of course, is the “Happy Daytona Day” ad.

Infamous as it was catchy, this is the embodiment of what I’d truly love the 500 to inspire in the general populace of this country. Turtles with numbers painted on them racing each other! Pool parties! Checkered flags on EVERY. SINGLE. PORCH.

Who cares about politics and flying the flag of your candidate when you can just fly the flag of a guaranteed winner every week? Astronauts throwing diecasts in space! It jumped the shark just like F9 did by going into orbit. It’s bonkers, it’s off-the-wall and I love it. I wish they still did it.

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Lucky for us, it did happen again the next year. 2017 is the biggest year for Daytona 500 commercials that I can remember — or, at least, the most notable — of recent, with at least two. Not a lot, but one I absolutely remember running during the Super Bowl that year (when the Atlanta Falcons broke America’s hearts and blew the lead against the New England Patriots) and the sequel to “Daytona Day” for the 2017 500.

It’s almost as bonkers, with scientists in the Antarctic celebrating NASCAR’s biggest race, people throwing banners over highway overpasses, a citywide parade and even a Hollywood production with an actor as Brad Keselowski ready to take on some Transformers-like foes attacking Daytona International Speedway.

Bring Daytona Day back. I’m begging you, FOX.

The second was an ad that I remember definitely aired during the Super Bowl that year, the FOX Sports Daytona Day Pick 5 “Lucky Numbers” spot. A blonde model introduces it as a lottery segment and announces the winning digits. She plucks out five miniature drivers — Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Keselowski — by the collars of their firesuits as they land in the tube. She reads the numbers and places them on a table beside her.

Keselowski is the most reluctant, flailing around as he gets picked up. It’s an oddity, for sure. It’s like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, only she’s normal-sized. I nerded out and tried to find a scale calculator, so by rough estimates, the giantess (to them) would be 69-feet tall and, in the scale of the video, the drivers are about six inches tall. Denny asks Brad at the end, “does this happen every year?”

The ad itself was aimed at encouraging picking the top-five finishers in the Great American Race. Blaney was the only drier of the five to actually score a top five, finishing second; Hamlin came home 17th, Dillon 19th, Harvick 22nd and Keselowski 27th, the latter the only one to not finish the race at all.

Finally, one I’d totally forgotten about is The Simpsons‘ version of Daytona Day, which also aired in 2017.

From a Springfield-esque version of the speedway outside of the city, to a pit crew shoving Krusty Burgers and fries into Homer’s mouth for refueling, a “Circuit Circus” sticker on the car and Homer holding a “Happy Daytona Day” sign aloft, it’s pretty perfect. Add in a Jeff Gordon voice cameo, a Simpson-ified Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Maggie outrunning an automobile on a Big Wheel, and it’s a pretty great 20 seconds.

Ahead of Super Bowl 54, just four years ago in the season where we had Kansas City Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers in the big game once again and the presumptive same presidential matchup later on in the year (please no COVID-19 this time, though), Joe Buck and Troy Aikman get usurped by the field zooming its way onto the gridiron turf.

Buck turns to Aikman, presumably for analysis on the game, but as we all know, those engines would drown anyone out. Joe and Troy look to the camera, exasperated, as CGI stock cars race by below and attempt to not run over anyone on the sidelines. That aired two weeks before the 2020 500, which Hamlin won.

Rest assured, we haven’t forgotten about NASCAR: Full Speed on Netflix. Jack Swansey and I did a video review of it, too, but I’ll be penning something soon about that docuseries as well.

Happy Daytona Week!

About the author

Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Deacon Blues

This was phenomenal, Adam; always enjoy your Reel Racing pieces!

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