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Auto Racing

Take the Checkered Flag

The green flag waves at the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Formula 1, NASCAR, Indy and Other Top Car Racing Circuits

Ever since Count Jules-Albert de Dion won the world's first car race from Paris to Rouen in 1894, making the trek at an average speed of 19 kph, auto racing has been a beloved pastime and an important forum for showcasing and testing new automotive technology. Today, the experimental steam engines and cars of questionable integrity have been replaced by finely-tuned racing machines, and the spirit of amateurism that pervaded early races has been superseded by a highly organized system of governing bodies; however, that same buzzing energy and sense of excitement can still be experienced on race day at the modern track. From long distance endurance trials like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to the off-road romping of the World Rally Championship, to stock car classics like the Indianapolis 500, today's auto races cover a wide and varied field, and provide fans with the type of thrilling, edge-of-your-seat entertainment that few other sports can claim. Check out our rundown of some of the top American circuits below for an overview of what contemporary car racing has in store for the spectator.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG Petronas at the 2014 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

Formula 1
The highest class of open-wheel formula racing, this series of Grand Prix races known as the FIA Formula One World Championship started in 1950 has the largest number of fans of any motorsport. The races occur worldwide, most notably in countries like Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia, China, Monaco and the United Arab Emirates. For more information, visit www.formula1.com.

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Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon vie for position at the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California (Photo credit: Jenny Markland/ NASCAR via Getty Images)

NASCAR
Short for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR is the largest sanctioning body of motor sports in the United States. Each year, NASCAR holds three major series in North America, the most well-known being the Sprint Cup, which includes the popular Daytona 500 in Daytona, Fla. For more information, visit www.nascar.com.



Formula E demo in Las Vegas, NV

Formula E Championship
Starting in fall 2014, Formula racing is going electric with the launch of the Formula E Championship, a racing series dedicated solely to electric vehicles. Featuring 10 teams, 20 drivers and 40 cars, the races will take place in the heart of iconic cities including London, Beijing and Berlin. Accelerating from 0-60 in under three seconds and boasting a top speed of over 130 mph, these emission-free Formula cars are all about bringing exciting new innovations to the electric car. For more information, visit www.fiaformulae.com



Mikhail Aleshin at the 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo credit: Mike Kelley)

Indy Racing League
The Indy Racing League (IRL) is the sanctioning body of two championship open-wheel racing series in the United States, which includes the famous Indianapolis 500. After splitting from Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) in 1994, IRL succeeded while CART floundered financially. In 2008, CART, which had been renamed to Champ Car following bankruptcy, merged with IRL. For more information, visit www.indycar.com.



Sunset at the 2014 Twelve Hours of Sebring

IMSA
The International Motorsport Association pulls together the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, Prototype Lites and GT3 Cup under one American sanctioning roof. Fans enjoy thrilling races as well as the many opportunities to meet drivers and team members across the country, but the best known is the grueling 12 Hours of Sebring. For more information, visit www.imsaracing.com



Petter Solberg at the 2014 Rally Sweden (Photo credit: McKlein)

World Rally Championship
Not the average car race, the WRC is a series of rally races in 13 different countries, on some of the harshest terrain on the planet. Teams enter multiple cars in each race, which occurs in multiple stages, most off-road and not open to the public. Instead of racing against each other, cars race against time; teams with the fastest overall times earn points to determine the WRC winner. WRC locations range far across the world and include places like Sweden, Mexico, Australia, Argentina and France. For more information, visit www.wrc.com





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