This weekend finds us heading down to Daytona Beach, Florida, once called ‘The World’s Most Famous Beach’. These days there are plenty of other contenders for that title, but Daytona Beach has something they lack.
Specifically, a whopping great big race track, and 200,000 screaming motorsport fans in town for a good time.
We’re here for the Daytona 500, which lives up to it’s name as a 500 mile long (805 km) race held on the speedway racetrack of Daytona Beach.
So Ladies…start your engines.
This Weekend’s Itinerary:
- Simple – don’t miss the action at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race!
Wait – ladies?
That doesn’t sound right coming off the tongue. Traditionally, the drivers of these speed machines (they reach speeds of around 200 miles per hour – that’s three hundred and twenty one kilometres per hour!) are men, and certainly the winner of the Daytona 500 for the last half century has been a man.
Will we see that change this weekend?
Danica Patrick is the most successful woman, ever, in open-wheel racing in America. And on February 17th, 2013, while we were swanning around Santiago Chile, Danica Patrick won pole position in the Daytona 500.
I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl.
Starting from pole position, Danica will be leading a field of around 43 other drivers, featuring teams from across America. Even the Army is involved.
No matter the outcome, Danica has already earned her place in history – but we’re rooting for her to take the famous Harley J. Earl Trophy.
Come meet the fans.
It’s an enormous event, backed up with extensive caravan and camping accommodation just next to the racetrack. That’s where we’re staying, hoping to get involved in the tailgate party spirit that forms amongst the massive RVs and trucks that fill these lots. It’s not cheap to park here (up to $2,500 for a spot for an RV!) so everyone here is making the most of the occasion.
We spend the morning getting to know everyone around us and working our way into a few barbecues or two – as long as we bring beer, all is forgiven. As we approach lunchtime, the buzz begins to build. The Daytona 500 is the largest and most prestigious race on the Sprint Car circuit, unusual given that it happens so early on in the race season.
We could easily stay in the carpark and watch the match on a TV embedded in the back of someone’s truck, enjoying some amazing barbecued foods, but we came all this way to see the race. We join the growing crowds and enter the enormous complex to take our seats.
The race kicks off at 1 PM, but all morning there have been presentations, musical acts, and celebrity spotting. Tom Cruise, Keith Urban, Tim Tebow, Brooks and Dunn, even Chubby Checker, have all been spotted attending the Daytona 500 in the past. We’re excited to see who’s going to show up this year.
Engines Started. Time To Race.
Unlike Formula 1 racing, the Daytona 500 Sprint Cup has a rolling start. Rolling starts have some interesting consequences, as do the style of racing that suits looping around a giant circle at 200 miles an hour, drafting the car in front of you.
Consequences like crashes.
Lots of crashes.
Do yourself a favour and watch this video of the 2011 Daytona 500, and see just how many crashes, with the screech of tyres on asphalt and acrid smoke polluting the air, engulf what seems to be almost half the field. In fact there are two major wipeouts in the first couple of minutes.
This is what we’re in for today.
Time to grab a hotdog and a beer, and kick back and enjoy the action.
And go Danica!
Is racing your kind of thing? What other amazing races should we experience the thrill of?
Tell us in the comments!