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Top 5: Things to do before watching the Daytona 500

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Talladega Nights AP

NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, holds a trophy in a scene from ''Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," the perfect movie to watch before viewing the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 23, 2014. (AP Photo/HO,Suzanne Hanover)

The Daytona 500 is almost here. Maybe you just couldn’t get off work to join the 250,000 other speedway-loving party people gathering this weekend in Volusia County. Perhaps you're a NASCAR neophyte and still haven't fully embraced this colossal sporting event that is way more exciting than a seemingly endless series of left turns. Regardless, here are five things you really should do before plopping down in front of the TV at 1 p.m. Sunday to watch The Great American Race on Fox.

1. Go: Naskarting at Livingston's
Probably the best way to get really stoked about the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing is to enjoy some go-karting action at Livingston's Amusement Center, 5947 Clark Center Ave., Sarasota. "Our indoor Naskart experience is the first of its kind in the country," the center promises. "Take a qualifying lap behind the wheel of our pacer plus karts and enjoy racing together with family and friends."

Danica Patrick 1 AP 2014

Danica Patrick during NASCAR auto racing media day at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

2. Google: Danica Patrick
Sure, there are lots of pictures of her looking really hot but also check out the stuff about Patrick beginning her second full season at NASCAR's highest level after becoming the first woman a year ago to win the top starting spot for the Daytona 500 and finishing a very respectable eighth in the race. And then read about NASCAR king Richard Petty saying Patrick can only win a Sprint Cup Series race "if everybody else stayed home." Maybe the racing legend is right but we would really love to see Patrick shut up the good ol' boys with a victory.

3. Read: “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” by Tom Wolfe
Originally published in the March 1965 issue of Esquire, the article is a brilliant, groundbreaking profile of an original NASCAR superstar with a super back story. "In this legend, here is a country boy, Junior Johnson, who learns to drive by running whiskey for his father, Johnson, Senior, one of the biggest copper still operators of all times, up in Ingle Hollow, near North Wilkesboro, in northwestern North Carolina, and grows up to be a famous stock-car racing driver, rich, grossing $100,000 in 1963, for example, respected, solid, idolized in his hometown and throughout the rural South, for that matter," Wolfe writes.

4. Buy: The right beer
We all know drinking and driving don't mix but drinking and watching people drive is definitely a winning combination. Coors Light is the official beer of NASCAR so you can't go wrong with a case or five of Silver Bullets. But if you're a Brad Keselowski fan, pick up some product from his primary sponsor Miller Lite and Kevin "Happy" Harvick enthusiasts best be holding a Budweiser.

5. Watch: “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”
Before watching the actual race, how about viewing a movie to get you in the mood? There are several decent NASCAR dramas, including "The Last American Hero" based on Wolfe's story and starring Jeff Bridges, but none, including "Days of Thunder" and "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story," are really great. What is great? The NASCAR comedy “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Starring and co-written by Will Ferrell, who plays the titular NASCAR driver who wants to go fast, it's one of those films that miraculously remains funny even after having it viewed it 500 times — especially when combined with copious cans of Coors Light.

 



Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: February 27, 2014
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