When it comes to icons that represent the spirit of the United States, you could do worse than pointing to the Daytona 500 and the Goodyear Blimp.
One, the most prestigious race in NASCAR.
The other, an ubiquitous presence at the nation's biggest sporting events for decades.
On Sunday, they come together for history.
The 56th running of The Great American Race will not only see Jimmie Johnson looking to defend his 2013 race win and series title, Matt Kenseth looking to make a winner's circle return, and Danica Patrick starting her third straight race, it'll also see the record-breaking coronation of Goodyear's crown jewel.
The "Spirit of Goodyear" blimp, one of three in the company's U.S. fleet, is scheduled to be honored with the record for the longest continuous use for a blimp as it hovers over the Daytona International Speedway. "Spirit of Goodyear" has claimed 14 years of service as of Feb. 17, making it potentially the longest continuously used blimp ever. Goodyear plans to retire the airship this year.
While Guinness World Records plans to have representation on site to verify the official honor of the airship, the Daytona 500 itself has been home to many historic performances over the years, including:
- Richard Petty winning the most career Daytona 500s, with seven. Jeff Gordon is the driver in this year's race with the most career wins at the track, with three.
- The 2007 race setting records for the closest Daytona 500 win, lowest pole position winner, and fewest laps led by the victor. Those all came via Kevin Harvick's 0.02-second margin of victory from 34th position after leading for only four laps. So there's hope for Tony Stewart!
- Only three drivers (Petty, Cale Yarborough, Sterling Martin) have ever won the race in back-to-back years, the most consecutive wins of the Daytona 500. Johnson will, of course, be looking to match that record with a second straight victory Sunday.
So, come Sunday, keep an eye on the sky and then down on the track. History could be made anywhere you look.