Sunday, February 26, 2012

Daytona Speedway: Grey Skies I See

So today was the big day of the Daytona 500.  Unfortunately, it's been postponed to Monday due to rain delay.  The whole process of arriving & leaving was an absolute nightmare (but in a funny way).  Here's how it went down.  But first, if you want to check out Daytona on Google Maps, here you go:

View Larger Map

It's a one-hour drive from Orlando to Daytona Beach.  Me and my dad get on the highway and are on schedule to arrive at about noon (race starts at 1 pm).  Unfortunately, with 15 miles to the Daytona exit, traffic slows down to a stop.  The road was wet from light showers.  Apparently, we had assumed there was a wreck on the road but no--it was a couple of old people/rubber-neckers who decided to come to a near stop on a national highway.  But that's cool!  I like it because you get to narrowly dodge & swerve through traffic--just like real NASCAR drivers!!!  You could tell you were getting close to the track just by spotting the Goodyear blimps in the air.

Thankfully, while on the interstate, we learned that the race had been delayed from its usual 1 pm time.  We arrive at the track at about 1:30.  It's set out in this vast undeveloped area with grass fields & trees.  Typical of a NASCAR track to be set in a rural area.  Unfortunately, there's no normal paved parking lot/garage like at Disney World or a football stadium.  So there were makeshift parking lots free-of-charge--just park on the grass (like at Little League ball parks and Renaissance fairs), get out, and hop on the school buses that go to and from the stadium.  This is when the fun begins.

During the walk from the car to the bus while carrying our stuff, it started to sprinkle rain.  So that's not too bad--I was wearing my coat and I didn't mind getting a bit wet--it beats hot weather for sure.  Hop on the super-clean school bus (I'm exaggerating) and ride to the stadium.  The windows were incredibly foggy and I couldn't see the track.  So expect to get a bit wet.

Take a look at the diagram above.  My seat is at DePalma (before the pit entrance).  We get out in a big paved area (no cars, just people walking around) and there's a grandstand right in front of us.  Be aware that these stands are completely hollow underneath--just metal beams like typical grandstands at a high school field.  Tents & small booths served souvenirs and food.  Oh, and guess what--we were at the complete opposite side of the track (Lund & Allison).  So guess what--we had to hop on a tram (little shuttle like you'd see at an amusement park) to get to the other side.

Unfortunately, the tram dropped us off at the west side of the grandstands (Lockhart) while we had to go way east to DePalma.  So we had a lot of walking to do.  This is when the weather REALLY becomes a problem.  As I walked, I attempted to dodge large puddles in the concrete.  I tried my best to keep my socks from getting wet (I was wearing a coat & jeans) but after a while, the shoes just absorb too much water and they inevitably get soaked.  Most of the people around here were wearing rain ponchos.  I eventually had to put on one as me and my dad huddled underneath the grandstands.  Unfortunately, rain still came down on us through the cracks in the stands.  Man, I felt terrible.

We keep walking and here we are--DePalma, Row 3.  I finally got to see the track in all its glory.  Amazing.  There weren't a whole lot of people in the seats so we waited for the rain to clear out (must've took about an hour of us sitting there in our ponchos like idiots) and then let our clothes dry (I took my shoes off, kicked my feet up on the seat let the socks dry--trust me, they didn't reek of sweat).  Unfortunately my socks never dried off so that sucked.  However, the rest of my body nearly dried off so I was doing okay.

This makes me know what would be nice at these events when it was raining?  A bit heater/fan to dry people off.  Why doesn't anybody do this???

So, I'll go ahead and say this.  Many people think that the NASCAR crowd consists of a bunch of rowdy rednecks and that if you go to a race, you'll be assaulted by white supremacists.  This is completely untrue.  I saw lots of nice clean people there--families, kids, teenagers, young women, minorities, senior citizens.  Crowd seemed okay.  Yeah, there's a couple of people smoking cigarettes and drinking beers chatting it up, but I didn't feel uneasy around there.  That's my experience anyway so don't gimme that "NASCAR = redneck" crap.

All of the cars were in the pit road covered up.  I don't think I saw any drivers or cameramen around.  We were just chillin...literally, we were cold trying to recover from the rain.  We did get to see some car action--a Toyota pace car zipped around the track at 50 mph and we cheered every time it passed by.  The rain stopped but the skies were still cloudy.  The big heating trucks made their rounds for about an hour, blasting air as they passed by.

At about 4:30 pm, the skies looked clear and we assumed the race would begin shortly.  However, after all that effort to dry the track (and myself), it started to sprinkle again.  So the race was postponed to Monday!  A mass exodus occurred as we went in reverse--hopped on the tram to the Allison/Lund bus stop (we went clockwise around the track, therefore we made at least one lap, haha), hopped on the bus, and walked across the dirty field to our car and took off.  All while the rain continued to drizzle on us.

Oh, and just like the traffic was bad coming in to Daytona, it was just as bad going out.  Hey, you try to get 100,000 spectators out of a town at once.  Parts of the highway were shut down for no good reason so we were rerouted to some small one-lane rural roads (which were still packed).  We tried to stop a Chick-Fil-A but wait--it's closed on Sundays!!  Turn your ass around and go up the road to a Wendy's (still wet, mind you).  I got the W burger and we made it home at 7:30 pm.  One more kick in the ass--I brought the Daytona USA strategy guides (I don't know why) in a separate bag and they got a bit wet & wrinkled during the whole experience.  I'm upset but it's not the end of the world.

What a miserable experience but it was still laughable.  Now I have a conundrum--the race is rerouted to Monday, right?  Most people have work that day.  I have a Programming class at school that is highly recommended I don't skip.  I should drive straight to Daytona just to make it there at Noon (and hear the "Lady and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!!!" line).  BUT...there's a 70% chance of rain in Daytona Beach on Monday.  So even if it looks like it'll be rained out, the rain may go away just in time for the race to continue that day.  And if I'm not there, then I miss out on a good bit of the race.  So I have to drag my ass there all over again just to ensure that I don't miss anything.  What a piece of crap.

BTW, the NBA All-Stars game was tonight at the Amway Center in Orlando...what a joke, a final score of 152-149???  Nobody cares.

I should have an excellent race recap tomorrow or Tuesday.  Cya later and try to stay dry, please...

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