The 500 is in the afternoon at Daytona International Speedway — the 2.5-mile tri-oval track known as the "Mecca of Speed." The All-Star Game is at night in the beautiful, new state-of-the-art Amway Center. Coincidentally, the Academy Awards are also tonight and considering the noise that will be generated in Central Florida this weekend it seems only appropriate that one of the films nominated for Best Picture is called "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."
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Daytona International Speedway, 1801 W International Speedway Blvd, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, USA
Amway Center, 400 W Church St, Orlando, FL 32801, USA
Although Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American point guard for the New York Knicks, won't be playing in the All-Star Game he did bring "Lin-sanity" to All-Star Weekend. He made several public appearances in town and competed in the Rising Stars Challenge at the Amway Center Friday night. And his every move — on and off the basketball floor — was chronicled by the worldwide media.
"Just to be here and to see the company and all the players that are here is just ... it's been unbelievable," Lin said during one of his jam-packed news conferences. "I'm just trying to take it all in and embrace it and enjoy it every step of the way."
Meanwhile, over in Daytona, "Lin-sanity" has given way to female driver who has already become "Dan-iconic." We are talking, of course, about Danica Patrick, whose combination of sex appeal and driving ability have made her the media darling as she prepares to make her Daytona 500 debut today.
The NBA All-Stars may not be able to tell you much about NASCAR's switch from carburetion to electronic fuel injection, but they all know about the allure of Danica.
When asked who's bigger this weekend — Dwight or Danica? — Magic franchise center Dwight Howard said with a smile, "She's pretty big, but I'm definitely taller."
Even though these two events -- the 500 and the All-Star Game – are demographically different in nearly every way imaginable, the athletes themselves have an intense amount of admiration for one another.
"I respect immensely what those drivers do," says Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks All-Star. "I'll be damned if I would get behind the wheel of one those cars."
Adds Dwight: "I don't know how those drivers do it. They put their lives on the line every time they get out on the track."
Meanwhile, just a short jaunt down I-4, defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne speaks just as reverently about the NBA All-Stars.
"Those are some big dudes who muscle their way around," Bayne says. "I'm terrible at basketball, which is probably why I respect those NBA players and what they do. They're just such incredible athletes."
Enjoy it, Central Florida sports fans, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime weekend.
Relish it and remember it.
It will be a day of thunder in Daytona and a night of wonder at the Amway Center.
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