There is always a different mindset whenever I wake up on a race morning. It feels like there is something different in the air. Especially at a high profile event.
I got up on Saturday morning and knew I was in for something exciting, but I had no ideaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Just driving to the track, what has seemed like normal suburban/industrial streets turned into what seemed like rush hour in New York City. I knew if I waited in line I would never get to the pits in time to see the cars grid before the race, so I devised a plan. I passed all the cars turning into the speedway and pulled to the left of the car in the very front of the line, a new, very modified black Corvette. I rolled my window down and told him if he let me in front of him I would give him my extra infield parking pass and he replied Ã¢â‚¬Å“ I park in the pits, I have better passes than thatÃ¢â‚¬Â. I laughed as IÃ‚Â made the same offer to the next car and they let me in and I was off. As I drove into the garage area I saw the guy getting out of the black Vette in the standard grass parking lot, now with mud all over his recently polished wheels, tires and fenders. I rolled my window downÃ‚Â and yelled to him with a devilish grin Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hey mister, the pits are this way, want a ride?Ã¢â‚¬Â He and his wife declined as they proceed to walk along outside of the gate to the ticket stand as I drove into the garage area. Some people!!!
Once I was in the garage area I felt like I was inside my television that I watch every race on. Now while HDTV is awesome, there is absolutely nothing like being there and actually feeling the rumble of the cars warming up in the garages and the smell of the SUNOCO 260 race fuel burning, and almost getting run over by golf carts driven by names like, Chip Ganassi, Boris Said, Max Papis, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Montoya, Kurt Busch, and the list goes on. It is fun to be able to walk right into the pits at the Daytona 24 Hour, with camera in handÃ‚Â snapping away.Ã‚Â I watched as theÃ‚Â teams pushed their cars out with the drivers in full suit following their car like a NASA Shuttle launch prep. The machines meticulously prepped, everyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s morale was high. Press was everywhere. About the time I was wishing my friend Ken Dobson good luck the police came through and got everybody out of the pits and off the grass, so I decided the infield would be a good place to watch the start.
As expected somebody was in a hurry to end their race on the first lap of a 24 hour race. The GT cars came through and a Porsche already had a flat apparently from contact with another car. As the race sorted out I made my way around the infield carnival area and got some cool souvenirs. After that I decided to go back to the garage area.
In the Fanzone there was a big stage set up with a DJ and while I was ordering food at the NASCAR Bistro thinking about Ricky Bobby and NASCAR going French I overheard the DJ mention that SUM 41, one of my favorite bands, would be playing a concert!
I walked through the garages where there was already 3 cars broken, 2 terminal and one being worked on. The spares each team has amazes me every time I see it. There only one rule for the DP cars for changing parts during a race; no engine swaps. That means that every team has every other spare part ready to go in their garage including an assembled cockpit.
Before I knew it I could hear the concert starting so I made my way back to the Fanzone to watch SUM 41 perform. As I walked up as close as I could to the stage I was nailed with an empty beer can flung from the mosh pit. I decided the typical viewing area wasn’t cutting it for me. So I proceeded to walk into the backstage area where I was confronted by a security guard asking me what I was doing. I flashed him my Grand-Am credential which say in big letters CREW as I said Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m with the bandÃ¢â‚¬Â and walked backstage where I watched the rest of the show. The whole time I was thinking Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have always wanted to say that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
After the concert ,as the skies turned black, there was a huge fireworks show. By now the race was pretty sorted out, but rain was on the radar. SO on the next pit cycle all the teams put in their rain hot shoe.
About this time I decided to drive over to the main grandstands because there was dry seating and I had been walking around all day. The view was awesome from the grandstands. It looks like 4 Candlestick Parks could fit inside the speedway. After watching for a couple hours with my cameras 1G memory card full it was time to call it a day.
It was definitely an week I will never forget.
Boy I can’t wait to come back as a driver!!!
I am at the Orlando Airport on a slow Internet connection so I will post all the pictures when I get home tonight.