Photo credit: U.S. Army. Public domain.
A love of race cars and an admiration of those who drive them are inseparable for motor racing fans.
After all, in competition, car and driver are one, and throughout life, those who perform interesting actions are considered to be interesting people.
Though a race of cars, or at least implied to be by the moniker "auto racing," the synergy of machine and master in unison creates the full effect for those who enjoy the strategy, speed, and split-second skill in the Daytona 500.
Forty-nine drivers attempt to do what millions can only watch. All are entered for a chance at being in the forty-three who race, in the select who finish, in the best who complete all 500 miles, and in the ultimate who wins.
As they prepare for the biggest race of the NASCAR season, prepare yourself with some information about each of them.
McDonald's-backed Jamie McMurray (#1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) would be sold as "Jamie Murray" at any other fast food chain.
Brad Keselowski (#2 Team Penske Ford) does not believe the DeltaWing is a real race car, but has not yet offered a public comment on the BMW E89 Z4 GTE using a non-production engine, or the SRT Viper GTS-R getting waivers not afforded to the Corvette C6.R.
Austin Dillon (#3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) created far less controversy when, in 2009, he used the #3 in the Camping World Truck Series that had not been run since Bryan Reffner lost his ride in 2001.
Kevin Harvick (#4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) was once on an episode of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.
Kasey Kahne (#5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) raced in the Atlantic Championship and in U.S. Formula 2000, making him one alumnus of many who progressed from the CART/Champ Car ladder to something other than CART/Champ Car.
Michael Annett (#7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet) is not the first former ice hockey player to drive the #7 car; P.J. Jones also wore the number in NASCAR, albeit with a different team, after retiring from ice hockey.
Marcos Ambrose (#9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford) debuted in NASCAR in 2006, but first raced against a NASCAR driver ten years earlier when Jerry Nadeau represented Team USA in the Formula Opel Nations Cup. Ambrose was one of the Team Australia competitors.
Danica Patrick (#10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) has led both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500, something only thirteen other drivers (A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Bobby Allison, Jim Hurtubise, Johnny Rutherford, Tim Richmond, John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, and A.J. Allmendinger) have done.
Denny Hamlin (#11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) scored a top ten finish in his first career ARCA, Truck Series, and Nationwide Series starts, but did not earn his first Cup Series top ten until his second race.
Casey Mears (#13 Germain Racing Chevrolet) finished fourth in his first 500-mile race, a CART affair in Fontana during which he drove for Bobby Rahal, making him the predecessor to Danica Patrick, who earned the same result with the same team in her 500-mile debut at Indianapolis.
Tony Stewart (#14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) of Columbus, IN joined Sarah Fisher of Columbus, OH as a one-time McLaren Formula One demonstration driver when he lapped Watkins Glen in an MP4-23 for a Mobil 1 promotional event. Fisher had driven the MP4-17 in 2002.
Clint Bowyer (#15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota) has fielded dirt late models through his own team and driven an AF Corse Ferrari. These same facts also apply to Bobby Labonte, making them not the least bit unique.
Greg Biffle (#16 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford) was also in Kevin Harvick's episode of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (#17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford) has finished sixteenth in six Sprint Cup Series races, making it his most frequent classification.
Kyle Busch (#18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) had a televised wedding and never even played on a CBS reality TV show!
Matt Kenseth (#20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) is the nephew of Eldon and Susan Kenseth, who sued the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
Trevor Bayne (#21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford) won the 2011 Daytona 500. No, really.
Joey Logano (#22 Team Penske Ford) lives with a dog, but has never appeared on Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.
Alex Bowman (#23 BK Racing Toyota) was born on April 25, 1993, over fifty-one-and-one-half years after the oldest entrant, Morgan Shepherd.
Jeff Gordon (#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) will apparently retire if he wins the championship this year. Retirement, in NASCAR, consists of racing for smaller teams on a limited schedule, so expect a five-time-title-winning Jeff Gordon in a second JTG-Daugherty car for 2015.
Cole Whitt (#26 Swan Racing Toyota) is the cousin of Truck Series race winner Brandon Whitt, but cannot hold the nickname "Cousin Cole" as Carl Edwards, too, is someone's cousin.
Paul Menard (#27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) used to ice-race a Mazda 323 with his father.
Parker Kligerman (#30 Swan Racing Toyota) followed female pit reporters Shannon Spake, Krista Voda, Wendy Venturini, and Jamie Little on Twitter consecutively.
Ryan Newman (#31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) believes that the moon landing was faked, but still had to visit NASA's Kennedy Space Center as part of his Daytona 500 victory tour in 2008.
Terry Labonte (#32 FAS Lane/Go Green Racing Ford), despite being a two-time Cup Series champion, has never won a stock car race in Florida; he is, however, a class champion of both the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, winning both, and the Cup title, in 1984.
Brian Scott (#33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA, though it is unclear if this was on a 4.0 scale or a 5.0 scale.
Even David Ragan (#34 Front Row Motorsports Ford) sees a bit of novelty in the Dale Earnhardt obsession.
Eric McClure (#35 Front Row Motorsports Ford) is one of the most educated drivers in NASCAR, with a bachelor's degree in mass communications.
Reed Sorenson (#36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet), Boston Reid, and Arthur Read are three auto racing personalities (yes, Arthur) who can help you learn homonyms.
David Gilliland (#38 Front Row Motorsports Ford) spent one summer as the most talked about prospect in NASCAR. This honor currently belongs to no one, as Donovan McNabb's months-old comments still dominate all discussion.
Landon Cassill (#40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet) is one of only two Iowans entered; Dean Whipple's career never progressed far enough for the Daytona 500.
Kurt Busch (#41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) has driven, but never raced, both the Lola B02/00 and the Dallara DW12, two formula cars that debuted a full decade apart.
Based on this photo, Kyle Larson (#42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) does not work a second job as the Target mascot. Chip Ganassi still may.
Aric Almirola (#43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford) simultaneously participated in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program and another diversity initiative through Joe Gibbs Racing in conjunction with Reggie White.
A.J. Allmendinger (#47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet) finished third in the 2006 Champ Car World Series standings after missing a race, yet was not the highest-ranked partial-season driver. Justin Wilson was classified second with an equal (but not the same) thirteen starts from fourteen events.
Jimmie Johnson (#48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) has six more Sprint Cup championships now than he did before making his series debut in 2001.
Justin Allgaier (#51 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet) won an ARCA championship after an ex-Formula One driver and a Roush-Fenway Racing-backed, Tony Stewart-approved sprint car ace continually and intentionally wrecked each other.
Bobby Labonte (#52 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet) made the first ever donation to the Cody Unser First Step Foundation after replacing her father, Al Unser, Jr., on the 1999 IROC roster. There's a job in IndyCar race control if he needs one.
Brian Vickers (#55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota) is one of NASCAR's bearded drivers. If he were instead a bearded collie, he could appear in an episode of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.
Michael Waltrip (#66 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota) lost 462 Cup Series races before finally winning one.
Dave Blaney (#77 Humphrey Motorsports Ford) is the brother of Dale Blaney, a West Virginia University basketball alumnus who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Dale, not impressed with the professional basketball lifestyle, chose auto racing, instead.
While eliminations are new to the Chase in 2014, Martin Truex, Jr. (#78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet) was technically the pilot for this program in 2013, being removed by NASCAR and replaced with Ryan Newman.
Ryan Truex (#83 BK Racing Toyota) is his father's son, but don't call him "Truex, Jr." That's the other one.
Joe Nemechek (#87 Identity Ventures Racing Toyota) spent the majority of the 2012 Daytona 500 red flag talking to Danica Patrick, though he was not able to do so for the duration, as Patrick opted to use the facilities at one point.
After defeating Ron Fellows in the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series race at Watkins Glen in 1999, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (#88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) raced as teammates with Fellows twice in GT and three times in stock cars. Earnhardt then fielded Fellows in his own Nationwide entries thirteen teams.
Morgan Shepherd (#93 HMR Toyota) also used the #93 in his NASCAR debut, failing to qualify for the World 600 in May 1970. Jeff Gordon was not yet born.
Michael McDowell (#95 Leavine Family Racing Ford) drove two races in the Champ Car World Series, both for Paul Gentilozzi and neither in a Jaguar.
Josh Wise (#98 Phil Parsons Racing Ford) is a triathlete: he has raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He's also done half and full Iron Man competitions.
Carl Edwards (#99 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford) has substituted for public school teachers and for Regis Philbin (who was technically on a permanent leave); he has also needed substitution from the likes of Dave Blaney and Hank Parker, Jr. at times in his NASCAR career.
With this information in mind, you can now enjoy the Daytona 500 more than ever before.