The NASCAR Gatorade Duel

Dale Junior's car flying by at 188mph!

Dale Junior's car flying by at 188mph! (yes, I took that picture!)

My lovely wife, Carey, and I went to the NASCAR Gatorade Duel in Daytona today.  We had a great time and I was very pleased with the experience overall.   I visit Daytona yearly during Bike Week and usually watch the motorcycle races at the Speedway, but I haven’t been to a NASCAR race in years.  This was definitely an experience.  I wanted to take a few moments to relate my thoughts, and some pictures, in no particular order.

  • We ended up parking and tailgating in a secluded spot outside the mall – right across the street from the Speedway.  It was really convenient.  As soon as we parked, a guy in a 4×4 pulled up next to us and got out to chat with us.  His name was Terry and he was from Vermont.  He was missing multiple teeth, had been drinking all day, and was very chatty.  He wanted to share a joint with us, but we politely declined.  Carey was very uncomfortable around Terry.  I saw him as mostly harmless, but I was going out of my way to be nice to him just in case he had broken his teeth gnowing on the bones of the last couple who had crossed him.  I, unfortunately, wasn’t brave enough to take a picture of Terry.  You can see our tailgate picture by clicking HERE.
  • I didn’t know scalping was legal in Daytona.  As we were walking to the Speedway from our car, was saw an older gentleman arguing with a scalper.  He had just purchased a ticket from the scalper and didn’t bother to look at the face value of the ticket he had purchased.  He had paid twice the face value of the ticket and wanted his money back.  Of course, the scalper refused.  The older gentleman started following the scalper and warning people off of him when they approached.  While I felt bad for the man – it was his own fault for not paying attention to what he was purchasing.
  • Carey purchased our tickets weeks ago online.  We knew we had pretty good seats, but we had no idea HOW good they were until we got there.  We were 8 rows up DEAD CENTER of the starting line.  You can see a picture of how close we are to the starting line HERE.   I love the picture of the blimp in the background.  We were less than 20 feet from that box!
  • There are some REALLY weird looking people who attend NASCAR races.  For example, take a look at Ugly Grumpy Woman sitting next to Carey.
  • People take their NASCAR seriously.  I saw more driver paraphernalia than I expected.  It seemed like everyone but me had some.  Even Carey was wearing her Jimmie Johnson cap.  I ended up buying a Carl Edwards keychain just so I could feel like I belonged.
  • Even NASCAR has it’s “nerds.”  There were lots of people emulating pit crews by using “pit-style headphones” instead of regular earplugs to block the noise.  There were also countless people walking around with hand-held scanners picking up the driver-to-pit chatter.  They even had scanners emblazoned with driver plates.  NASCAR scanner aficionados were exchanging frequencies and talking “scanner shop.”  All revolving around NASCAR.  I decided right then and there that if I go to more races, I am going to be a scanner geek.  Carey shook her head; I don’t think she wants to be around me if I do start carrying a scanner.
  • I REALLY liked the world-class lens I brought to the race.  Remember; I am CTO for an Interactive Communications company that works closely with the company who markets and advertises Dale junior’s 88 car.. Photography and videography is one of our specialties.  I am a budding photographer; not at all good yet – but I do get to use the toys the professionals use.  I brought a Canon Ultrasonic Telephoto Lens.  The quality is amazing.  I took THIS shot of Jimmie Johnson as he was waving to the crowd.  I think Carey is going to print it and sleep with it under her pillow.  HERE is another one she loves.
  • I took a really cool shot of the F-15 flyover.
  • Even dead celebrities show up for a good NASCAR race.  Elvis was in attendance, on leave from Vegas.
  • Carl Edwards is my favorite driver.  His public persona is intelligent, funny, witty, and he is a gentleman.  He is a damned fine race car driver as well.
    — Carl saying HELLO to the crowd.
    — Carl in a quick pit stop.  This pit gained him +3 places in the race, which was later lost.
    — Carl pulling out of pit road.
Michael Waltrip blows a tire!

Michael Waltrip blows a tire!

  • The seats at the Speedway are WAY too close to one another.  For the first race, a nice lady was sitting next to me and we were closer than strangers have any right to be.  Closer than in coach class in an airplane.  We were courteous to each other, but I don’t see how really large people can sit in just a single seat.  Maybe NASCAR will eventually start charging for two seats for overweight spectators?  What would that do to attendance?  There was a greater percentage of overweight people than not.For the second race, a drunken older man was sitting next to me and he was, to put it bluntly, not about to give a shit about some punk taking pictures next to him.  He continually bumped and jostled me and more than once he suddenly stood an knocked my camera into my face as I was trying to take a picture.  I’m not sure if he realized what he did; but I think he did know what he was doing, but his personal space was his personal space – no matter how close the seats were to one another.    I didn’t say anything about being bumped by him because I know that more than once the lens of my camera was pretty much resting on his ear as I was trying to take shots.  We just couldn’t help but bump each other.
  • Crashes are spectacular.  When Michael Waltrip blew a tire everyone gasped and stood.  Watching on TV is just not the same.  When you see how FAST those cars go, you really understand how dangerous a crash can be and why safety is such a huge concern for these drivers and teams.  Here’s ANOTHER shot.  And ANOTHER.
  • Here’s Jimmie Johnson coming in for the win on race #1.
  • I was appalled at how much of a presence smoking companies have at NASCAR.  As a throat Cancer Survivor, I am justifiably sensitive to smoking around me.  In the fan zone there were numerous huts and tents set up welcoming smokers in.  In the stands, EVERYONE was smoking.  I was literally in a cloud of smoke the entire time I was there.  The ashes from cigarettes were hitting me int he face because of the windy day.  I know smoking is not illegal, but it should be.  And NASCAR should have premium seats as good as the ones we got that are designated non-smoking.  I was miserable and paranoid the entire time that this was going to stress my throat and help bring back my cancer.
  • The sound of the pack of cars as they whoosh past is felt as much as it is heard.  It is amazing and, again, the television doesn’t do it justice.  Seeing those cars fly by at 190 mile per hour, smelling the rubber, and feeling the rumble deep within your chest gives on an adrenaline rush like no other.  I was mesmerized and almost addicted to it.  Once the cars would pass, an almost depressed silence fell upon the crowd until a short minute later when the “fix” came again as the cars returned to fly by again.

Like I said, aside from the smoking and tight seats, I had a great time today.  I can’t wait to go to another NASCAR event – if I can find a way to avoid the cigarette smoke.  The fans are fun, the race was a blast, and the atmosphere was pleasant.  If you have a chance to go to a NASCAR event this season, I highly recommend you do so.


2 Responses to “The NASCAR Gatorade Duel”

  1. Hello I just wanted to thank you for giving me your email I enjoyed chatting with you and I am at the moment loving the pics you posted and am showing the rest of the gang.

    • Hi Delores! (that’s my mother’s middle name)

      I’m glad I sat next to you for the first race. I had a great time and I hope you enjoy the pictures. I am not a very experienced photographer yet, but feel free to use whatever picture you like.

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