July 8, 2012
By Kim Roberson
There is just something about a race at Daytona that makes you especially excited to be a fan of NASCAR.
I don’t know if it is because of the style of racing, the size of the track, or the people you meet while there that makes Daytona so special, but whatever it is, there is no place like it.
For the first time in quite a while, I had to take in the racing at the World Center of Racing from my couch instead of in person. (My real job occasionally interferes with my annual treks to see my favorite sport -- thankfully it doesn’t happen too often!)
I don’t know if it is the fact I *know* what I am missing by not being there to see the cars going four and five wide, four and five deep, or just that the TV can’t possibly do racing justice (really, if you have been to a race in person, you know what I am talking about), but while I am still just as nerve-wracked over waiting for the big one (and I wasn’t disappointed this weekend, was I?) I found myself just not quite as “involved” in what was going on on the track as I normally am when I am there in person.
I will admit, the TV coverage from TNT has been less than stellar so far this season -- just how many commercials do we need to pay for a race after all? (Some weekends I think I am watching commercials with a few minutes of racing tossed in for good measure.) And we certainly saw plenty of views of the crashes -- big and small -- from the weekend.
You really got a good demonstration of just how steep the banking at Daytona is right off the apron when Mike Wallace spun sideways Friday night and his bumper was on the banking of the track and his splitter was on the apron, and his tires weren’t touching the asphalt in between at all. It is really hard to explain just how steep that banking is when you see it on TV -- you just can’t comprehend it.
I was once told that cars taking the high line at Daytona have to maintain at least 55 mph on the turns or else they will simply slide down the banking, which likely explains why when cars crash in the turns at Daytona, they always end up scattered across the infield. The easiest way to describe it is imagine the steepest hill in your town or neighborhood. Now imagine going in circles in a car banked sideways on that hill -- nonstop -- for 400-500 miles.
I get a crick in my neck just thinking about it.
One of the best parts about Daytona in person is standing on top of someone’s viewing stand -- be it a camper or scaffolding or some other haphazard structure that probably isn’t going to pass any safety inspections but gets you above the fence line to take in the view-- and watching the cars go past in a pack at almost 200 mph. They show it on TV, and it looks impressive there, but really, there is NOTHING like being there in person to see it and hear it. It always sends a shiver down my spine, and I greatly missed that feeling this weekend sitting on my couch and watching the cars race on my TV.
I was chatting via twitter with MRN radio’s Mike Bagley, who was sidelined this weekend due to having stents placed in a blocked artery last week (glad you are A-OK Mike!) and watching the race from his recliner at home instead of making the radio calls from his usual spot above Turn 3, and I asked him “When was the last time you watched a Daytona race from home?” His reply was “Not sure and I hope I never have to again.”
Daytona is like that. Whether it is the season kick off Daytona 500, or the former Firecracker 400 (now the Coke Zero 400), there is just something about Daytona that, if you have been there in person, grabs a piece of your racing soul and latches on.
Last week, it was announced that Daytona International Speedway (DIS) is working over the off season to make the viewing experience for fans even better. In a statement from DIS President Joie Chitwood III, the track announced “While many aspects of the project are yet to be determined, (the redevelopment) could include a complete overhaul of the entire front stretch grandstand of the legendary speedway, creating a world class motorsports entertainment facility including features such as new seats, suites and guest amenities, as well as new entry points, improved fan conveyance, a modern exterior, first-class interior areas, and a redesigned midway for fans. Our (Planned Master Development) filing with the City of Daytona Beach is only the first step in a long process and there are still many unanswered questions that could impact or even derail this initiative.
Multiple internal and external factors will influence the economics and project feasibility, and construction design and costs must still be determined. All these must be addressed before the project can be taken to the ISC Board of Directors for the green flag of final approval.”
I don’t know how they can make the track any better for the fans than it currently is, but I am excited to see what they come up with between now and the 2013 Daytona 500!
Follow Kim on Twitter: @ksrgatorfn
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.