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Daytona 500's popularity thrives on NASCAR.com

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 14, 2003

Racing fans often argue the best part of NASCAR is the access available at events, with infield passes that not only put them inside the track, but feet from garages and pit road.

The same is true online, where Saturday's Daytona 500 will be a showcase event at NASCAR.com, which spares nothing to give fans a comprehensive complement to watching the race on TV.

There are live garage cams, virtual trailer trucks full of the almighty NASCAR gear, up-to-the-minute results and fresh photo galleries. The site has mastered the in-your-face advertising for which NASCAR is famous. Ads literally pop out of the screen and race off with revving engines, touting everything from AOL to Cheerios to the U.S. Army.

For fans willing to pay for a little extra coverage, NASCAR.com's popular live TrackPass feature, which has drawn more than 100,000 subscribers in its first year, is offered at a discounted rate of $50 for the season, or $7 a month. TrackPass offers in-car audio, live radio broadcasts and "PitCommand" coverage of the race, including live streaming GPS data from all 43 Winston Cup cars that allows fans to track cars by speed, RPMs or throttle and brake data.

The TrackPass feature was offered as a free preview during last weekend's Bud Shootout and again during Thursday's Twin 125s, with more than 90,000 people taking part in the test drive.

MORE BUCS MANIA: Two prominent Bucs-related auctions are up for a second run at eBay.com after various complications the first time around. The FSU Orange Bowl championship ring once owned by Bucs safety Dexter Jackson didn't reach its reserve price last week, so its owner reposted the ring, which is bidding at $415, nowhere near the $1,200 it reached last week. Jackson's agent claimed the ring had been lost or stolen, but no police reports were filed in Jackson's hometown of Quincy or in nearby Tallahassee, so the seller is keeping the auction going.

And that $83,900 sale of the Mercedes driven by coach Jon Gruden turned out to be a false alarm. Mercedes-Benz of Tampa got an e-mail from the supposed winning bidder explaining that someone had hacked into his account and bid using his ID. So the car is back up for auction, with bidding at $67,500, where it picked up two supposedly legitimate bidders last week.

Perhaps the coolest Bucs-related auction yet is a 9-by-15-inch piece of the end zone turf from Qualcomm Stadium, which sold for $76 last week. The swatch, much like a primo piece of birthday cake, includes the top-left corner of the B in Buccaneers.

TID-BYTES: ESPN.com's Rob Neyer, offering up the worst teams in baseball history, leads his story Wednesday by writing "The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are bad. Really bad." The Rays "still have a ways to go" before cracking his top 10, however, which has no teams since 1965 in the top nine. Who tops the list? Who else but the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who went 20-134 ... ESPN.com's "Bracketology" projections for the NCAA Tournament have Florida as a No. 1 seed in Tampa, with Louisville, Kentucky and Arizona as the other top seeds. The eight teams in Tampa also include a 13th-seeded Texas Tech, where Bobby Knight would go up against fourth-seeded Purdue.

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