Fans Choose Your Ticket

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The 50th running of the Daytona 500 promises to be one of America’s toughest-to-get tickets for any sporting event in 2008.

However, fans now have a voice on exactly what the ticket will be sold for the February 17 classic.

Daytona International Speedway recently commissioned a blue-ribbon panel of participants and entertainment VIPs — some of them assisted by young cancer survivors — to design their idea of how the ticket should look for the 50th Daytona 500.

Fans can participate by visiting www.daytona500.com, and vote as often as they like. But, they will have to hurry. The top 10 designs will be announced Friday, June 15. The winning ticket will be announced at Daytona International Speedway July 7 prior to the running of the Pepsi 400.

All original artwork will be auctioned online to benefit the Jeff Gordon Foundation. Details of the auction will also be announced July 7.

No surprise, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has taken the early lead in the balloting, garnering 29 percent of the votes. While skeptics might feel that any scribbling signed by Driver No. 8 would gain the solid support of Jr. Nation, Dale Jr. has submitted a very unique and impressive entry, showing his respect for the traditions of The Great American Race. The 2004 winner’s design has a center Daytona 500 logo flanked by replica signatures of all of the Daytona 500 winners. One of the signatures is in red — his father, the 1998 winner.

Another former winner showing respect for the past was three-time Daytona 500 champ Bobby Allison. His design is headed, in rainbow lettering, Some Steps to the Daytona 500. Below are 40 snapshots of cars from all phases of Allison’s career, from the coupes he raced at Hialeah Speedway near his birthplace in Miami, to cars he raced with the Alabama Gang, right up through Roger Penske’s Coca-Cola Matador.

Other former winners included their own winning mounts on their design.

Mario Andretti’s design is the blue and red Ford he drove to victory in the 1967 race. Junior Johnson took a similar approach, showing his No. 27 all alone in an aerial view of his 1960 victory. Marvin Panch, the 1961 winner, paid an implied tribute to his car owner, showing Smokey Yunick’s cowboy hat and sunglasses.

Kevin Harvick’s design pays homage to this past February, showing his No. 29 Pennzoil/Shell Chevrolet nosing out Mark Martin at the finish line. This finish is also incorporated into two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip’s submission, that also includes the three-wide 1959 finish won by Lee Petty.

Other racers with interesting designs include FOX personality Larry McReynolds, showing the cars of 1992 winner Davey Allison and 1998 champion Dale Earnhardt, and Reed Sorenson, who has a blue car with a red No. 50 and white stars, trailing red and white stripes on a checkered background.

Of the VIPs, I liked Tony Hawk’s the best. He incorporates the No. 50 into a big, bold Daytona 500 over a checkered flag. Will we see the design incorporated into the “Official skateboard deck of the Daytona 500?”

Another great design was submitted by FOX personality Mike Joy, with the thundering herd entering Turn 1 shortly after the start of a Daytona 500.

Other designs are off-beat — Carolina Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker penned a football on wheels, and FOX’s Jeff Hammond has a No. 48 facing a No. 08, with the words 50 Years. By the way, Jeff and colleague Darrell Waltrip, 2008 will be the 50th RUNNING of the Daytona 500. The 50th ANNIVERSARY won’t be until 2009.

Anyway, check out the designs for yourself. Click on each individual submission — there’s more to them than the thumbnail. And, as they say in politics where I grew up, vote early and vote often, to decide what the 50th Daytona 500 ticket looks like. However, actually finding a ticket for the 2008 race will be much tougher.

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