As Dauntless gets prepared for her paravanes, I took the opportunity to attend the Daytona 500 with my friend Richard, from Providence, RI, who will be spending time with me on Dauntless in Florida.
Not my first NASCAR race, as my first race I attended in person was in Riverside California in 1981. See those big, really big cars racing up thru the “S” curves was truly something you had to experience. Having been a Richard Petty fan since the early ‘60s (I still cringe when I hear the name David Pearson), he had no chance on a road course, but it was a wonderful experience.
An experience I probably took for granted. You could wander anyplace around the track. You could bring in your own food, booze and beer. In other words, it was an affordable experience, especially for families.
Now, fast forward 33 years, and I, who can be critical of many things, found this race to truly be America’s Race for these reasons:
- It’s fan friendly. They actually act like they care, no love their fans. In the early morning hours, I was able to walk just outside the catch fence, all the way around the track. To watch the sun get ever higher in the sky while on top of the 33 degree bank is awesome.
- It’s affordable. While the dopes in major league baseball wonder where the fans are, as they have made their venues unaffordable for families, NASCAR welcomes fans. Bring your 14”x14” cooler filled with whatever suits you. Families can picnic. You can buy affordable food, $4 hot dog, $8 steak sandwich, $6 beer 16oz too!
- Virtually no areas in the grandstands are off limits. Move to a vacant seat, no problem. Just wander around, seeing where you like the view best to watch the action, no problem.
- A diverse fan base. It doesn’t come across on TV, but the fan base pretty much reflects all Americans, both in age and race.
- I did not even get the Fan Pass (that allows you into the infield until the race begins), but drivers are accessible to fans. It’s the opposite of Formula One, where they seem to make a real effort to highlight the difference between them and you.
- They had a kid’s event with driver Jimmie Johnson. Kids less than 12. They got to build, yes, build, with hammer and nails, a wooden race car. As many girls were doing this as boys. Really inspiring to watch them hammer away, and while they were given goggles and apron, some wore it, some didn’t. Interesting concept, teach personal responsibility young.
- And that leads me to my last point, no nanny state here. Even with lightning and thunder right next to the track, the announcements were very clear; “you were responsible for your own personal safety” it was up to you to stay in the stands or leave. Even when the tornado warning was announced. I was pleased to be treated like thinking adult. All the lawyers who run this country must be up north.
All in all, one of the most enjoyable sporting experiences I have had in the last 20 years. A truly iconic race.
If you like any kind of racing, then check out a NASCAR race at a track near you. You may be surprised.
more pictures at: http://dauntless.smugmug.com/Misc-Public/i-vRr6jLd