Friday, February 21, 2014

Daytona Speedweek

J. Dawg hanging out in the Infield
Drivers, start your engines!!!  Its February and that means the Nascar season is about to kick off at Daytona.  Nascar racing starts in the third week of the month.  Its a week long event called Speedweek.  I love stock car racing and going to Speedweek is a great RV destination trip for Florida in February.

For race fans, Speedweek is a chance to get a big dose of racing at the "mecca" of stock car racing  - the Daytona International Speedway.  During Speedweek, there's something going all almost everyday.  There are track tours, large vendor displays, exhibition races, truck races, testing runs, practice sessions, qualifying runs, qualifying races, and The Great American Race - the Daytona 500.  On Sunday, there will be close to 150,000 people a that race - one of the largest attended sporting events in the country.  There's also many chances to get up close and see the cars and drivers at the track.

I've been coming down to Speedweek for the past 6 years and love going to races and just hanging out at the track.  I put on my tribal wear (my number 48 hat and number 88 tee shirt) and I'm back with my People.

Nascar is the largest spectator sport in the country.  I got hooked several years ago when I went to my first race at the New Hampshire International Speedway.  For me, there's nothing that compares to thrill of standing on the finish line at Daytona or being with 100,000 fans on their feet and roaring when Dale Jr takes the lead.

Racing is not for everyone and for some it can be like watching paint dry.  My wife once said "So they just drive around in a circle?  I don't get it."  But to others, it a sensory overload addiction.  Here are some things that make Nascar racing different from other sports.
  • Its fast. Secretariat might have been able to run close to 40 mph. John Lester can throw a fast ball close to 95 mph and Tiger Woods might be able to swing the club at around 125 mph, but at Daytona the cars and drivers will be traveling close to 200 mph.  Pit stops to add fuel and change four tires take 15 seconds. 
  • Its loud, ear hurting loud.  The rock band The Who once put out 126 dB at a concert.  During a race, sound levels on pit road are around 110 dB.  Race fans usually wear some type of hearing protection.
  • Its huge.  Lots of tracks are 1 to 1.5 miles long, but the big ones like Daytona and Talladega are 2.5 miles long.  At a MLB game, there might be 35,000 fans.  Big college football stadiums hold 50,000.  At an NFL game their might be 70,000.  At many Nascar races, there's over 100,000 attendees.
  • The fans are incredibility loyal to their favorite drivers.  Go to any race and you will see Nascar hats and tee shirts on 99.999 % of the fans.
  • The cheap seats are down front.  Nascar fans want to be high up so they can get a better view of the track. The seats down front are referred to "chicken bone alley".  The name goes back to the days when racing was a Sunday afternoon event and people would bring a bucket of fried chicken to eat and throw the bones under the front seats.
  • You can bring your own beer and liquor into the stands.  Almost all tracks allow you to bring a small cooler. And you can listen in on the driver and crew chief conversations, if you have a radio scanner.
The Daytona International Speedway is about 3 miles west from Daytona Beach.  Its in a heavily developed area near the highway with plenty of restaurants and shopping centers.  There are several camping facilities available for RV's.  There's a large amount of RV camping in the infield of the race track and several camping facilities near the track.  Parking is readily available but be prepared to pay if you want to be close (within 1 mile) to the track and get there early.  Also, be prepared to walk a lot just to get anywhere, because the facility is so big.

Infield Camping at Daytona
During Speedweek, my favorite day is the qualifying races on Thursday.  For the Daytona 500, the drivers have to race their way in.  The qualifying races determine who gets in and what position they will start.  There are two qualifying races each for 60 laps (125 miles).  I like these races because you get to see two mini versions of the 500 for about 1/3 the cost with about 1/2 the crowd that would normally be at the 500.

My favorite drivers are six time champion Jimmie Johnson (48), Dale Earnhardt Jr (88), and Tony Steward (14).  Jimmie Johnson will be going for a 7th championship and try to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most championships.  Johnson will go down as of the best drivers ever and its fun to be able to watch a future legend race.  I hope Dale Jr. has a good year and wins some races.  Tony Stewart is coming back from a broken leg and he'll be competitive as always. And I hope that Danica Patrick (the only woman on the field) will show these guys something.

Here are some pictures from our visit to the track

J. Dawg on Pit Road
Jeff Gordon

In the Grandstands

So, lets go racing, boys (and girls)!!!!!!

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