The one thing I liked about being re-located to Florida in 1994 was being close enough to Daytona International Speedway that I could attend big time racing events on a regular basis. Having come from Texas, where at the time, only Friday and Saturday night events were available, mostly on dirt.
I made the trek every February to at least one “Speed Week” event at Daytona, which included side trips to Nights of Thunder at New Smyrna Raceway in Samsula, Florida. I made trips to Atlanta and Homestead for season ending events, I was in row 5 at the start finish line when Kurt Busch lost his tire, but still found a way to win the Championship in 2004.
I had attributed my lack of interest in attending races since 2007 as a product of getting older and not having the spunk to fight the traffic and crowds. I decided to take a hard look in the mirror to see if there were any other reasons I had for not being the fan I once was. What were the real reasons I haven’t been to an event in over five years? Why was I satisfied to just watch on television?
Actually, television became the reason I was content to watch on television. Example. The Bud Shootout used to be run at High Noon on the first Sunday of Speed Weeks. We would start our one hour and ten minute trip to Daytona by meeting at the “Watering Hole” by 7AM. Sometimes as high as 25-30 cars would caravan up I-95. Hey, tickets were only $28 at Winn Dixie.
We could tail gate and visit with other race fans for a while, visit the souviner haulers and be in a seat for the Green Flag. After the Bud Shootout, we would have to kill an hour or so then catch the ARCA race. Make the trip back down I-95, be tucked in bed by 9PM.
Then television took over. First thing, the Race was moved to Saturday Night. Don’t know if you have ever been to Florida in February, but if we have a North wind at night, it can get pretty cold. Now if you want to catch the ARCA race, you have to freeze for a couple of hours waiting for the Music, Driver Introductions and all the hoopla before getting to the Shootout. The racing I came for.
The race and Victory Lane celebration will be completed by around 11PM, so by the time you drive back down I-95 and get into bed, it’s usually 4-5 AM. Sunday is a waste as you try to recover, and Monday is back to work. Weekend over.
The racing became about the show and the broadcast. Shouldn’t the racing be about the racing? Real Race Fans come to see racing, not the latest hot C&W singer or newest Boy Band act. I know it’s an effort to keep fans entertained between races, but that’s what I came for, the racing. I decided that if the broadcast was the important thing, I should be in my Lazy Boy waiting for the racing instead of freezing my you-know-what, waiting for the racing.
I went to races to get the smell of burning rubber in my nose, the goose bumps on my arm when the engines roared to life after “Gentlemen Start You Engines”. The feeling of “I’m Proud to Be an American” when the cars in their new paint schemes pass the grandstands and get the “One To Go” signal. That’s what the racing was about.
So it’s back to Saturday Night racing at the local tracks where the main show is all kinds of Racing. The Bombers, Late Models and Super Modifieds. Where the pretty girls waving from the wrecker is the pre-race entertainment and halftime sometimes include a Demolition Derby. The seats are hard, the food somewhat greasy and the beer is a little warm. At least I get what I came for, The Racing.