IT is a sentence that doesn’t quite seem like one I should be writing, but here’s goes.
We’re going to the Daytona 500.
The sixtieth Daytona 500, to be precise; a milestone moment for the Great American Race and the most famous of NASCAR traditions.
Whether you’re a fan of Stock Car racing or not, it’s almost impossible to not be completely captivated by the ongoing theatrics, showmanship, Superman-style heroic deeds and pantomime-style villainy that occurs throughout every NASCAR race, let alone the madness that unfolds when they bolt a restrictor plate into the engine so all 40 cars run nose-to-tail and side-by-side for all 500 miles; millimeters apart at 200mph.
Much like a trip to the Indianapolis 500 – which I ticked off by attending the quite remarkable 100th running two years ago – a trip to the other ‘500 has long been on my personal bucket list. It’s one of those iconic ‘big’ races that everyone has to visit at least once in their life.
So its all worked out rather well that this will be the year to tick the box.
It was one of those trips that was clearly meant to be, too. I’ll be dropping in on Florida with Australia’s leading NASCARfile Mark Walker, for starters. A few years running Marcos Ambrose’s PR when he was in the top series has given Walker a quite in-depth understanding of how it all plays out – He definitely understands the nitty-gritty of the way the sport works much better than I.
And when it turned out he’d be on a skiing vacation in Canada the week prior, the timing seemed to work.
And then when the Supercars schedule bumped the Adelaide 500 a week back so two short weeks between the Bathurst 12-hour and the Supercars opener became three, there was a ready-made window in which to duck out of the country for a sneaky week..
If Walker is the NASCAR expert, I’m definitely more the causal fan; I get the fairytale of Truex winning the championship last year, quite rightfully dislike Kyle Bush for being the token bad guy – but love that he exists for just that reason – and I understand the unfolding story-line of the sport’s constant struggle for reinvention in a changing sports market, amidst declining crowds and TV ratings.
But I approach it from a much more casual aspect – I can’t, for example, tell you if I think NASCAR’s stage racing is a good thing or not – so it will be interesting to see how our thoughts combine.
I’m keen to experience the ‘show’ and see how what we have to offer in Australia compares. I am particularly looking forward to the pre-race pageantry, the flyover and the command to start engines; no one does that stuff better than the Yanks. And then I’m looking forward to the generally always compelling finish. And I’m looking forward to using the term ‘Boogity’ in a context people will understand and appreciate.
But most of all, I’m looking forward to experiencing motorsport done a new way. I’ve seen Formula One at speed, called long-distance endurance GT racing and witnessed the Bathurst 1000. The Indy 500 was special. But Daytona is something new again and I firmly believe you need to keep opening your own eyes to new motorsport experiences. Reinforcing how varied and diverse our game is helps keep the fire for the sport burning brightly.
I’ll add: This isn’t an all-expenses paid PR junket, either, because we’re going to the ‘500 punter-style. We’re sitting in the grandstands with the local fans and we’re only going to go places that the regular fan can go – though we’ve happily forked out for things like access to the infield before the race, for example. When in Rome..
Walker’s excellent planning has ensured we’ve already sourced a ‘cooler’ that we can fill with beverages before we go, the location of the nearest flea-market for cheap souvenirs and perhaps more importantly, the location of the nearest sports bar so we can watch some Basketball or Hockey while consuming hot wings in an effort to be as cliche’ as possible. I look forward to that. Wings are good.
So it’s going to be an interesting experience, for sure. We’ll aim to document as much of it in words, video and photos as we possibly can here throughout the event, though I can’t guarantee the regularity of the content.
American beer is, after all, very affordable, and our cooler will be large.
Until we get to Florida..
WORDS: Richard Craill
PHOTO: Courtesy Daytona International Speedway Facebook Page