Rolex 24 @ Daytona – A different perspective
Another year, another Rolex24 at Daytona International Speedway! As Wes has already mentioned, the race this year was great. This year was the first time I have attended the race and not camped at the track. Some family members that couldn’t make it to the race had booked a hotel room, and I decided I would stay in the room myself. The hotel was less than a quarter-mile from the Turn 4 tunnel. It was a pretty good-setup, it was an extended stay hotel complete with a fridge, microwave and stove…the next best thing to camping at the track. I first arrived to the track on Friday. While my plan was to at the track for the start of the Koni race, I was running late and didn’t arrive until the last hour. It was still plenty of time to watch the battle for the win as well as see the drivers and teams in the garage doing their post race inspections and de-briefs. After the race I made my way to the camping area where I had stayed in previous years. I met up with some friends and chatted about the Koni race, as well as the upcoming GT and DP cars of the Rolex race while sitting around the fire enjoying some drink. It doesn’t get much better than that! As it got later the girlfriend and I left the track for dinner before heading back to the hotel.
Saturday morning after a great breakfast at Bob Evan’s we packed up the car to drive our cooler and snacks to the infield, when we got to the gate we found out that they were already at capacity and we would have to park elsewhere. I took the cooler and carried it in why my girlfriend parked the car back at the hotel and walked to the track with the rest of our stuff. We got everything inside the track just in time to hustle over to pit road and the start/finish line for the pre-race activities. Tradition is to sign your name on the start/finish line and as usually there were dozens of people doing so, as well as taking pictures. The banking on the front stretch is 18 degrees, while the 4 turns of the tri-oval are 31 degrees. It feels much steeper than that when you’re walking up it or standing on the track than it does watching it on TV. You also really get a good feel for just how big the infield area is when you see the grass that has the Daytona logo, as well as the race series logos.
We made our way back to the garage area for the start of the race. After the national anthem there was a jet flyby. I haven’t been able to figure out what kind of jets they were (drop me a line if you know), but one of them had the “Rising Sun” painted on the tail…pretty cool. The next 8 or so hours were spent making our way around the track. From the banked turns of the oval to the infield hair-pin. We attended both the chili cook-off and the wine and cheese party in the blue garage area. This year’s wine and cheese event also had a selection of beers to try and while it was pretty packed, the entry fee ($5) was well worth it and I tried almost all the wines as well as the beers and got my fair share of cheese. Some of the chili we tried was great, one that really stood out was from team “Louisiana Heat”. I am inspired to find out more information about entering the cook off and may try to enter next year.
Around 10pm a group of us made our way to Hooter across the street for some dinner. Unfortunately we missed the fireworks while we were eating but we did see them on the TV coverage of the race at the restaurant. The happens to be a small go-kart track behind the Hooters, while I had checked it out earlier in the day and decided to pass on it (they are just your regular run of the mill “karts”, nothing fancy) being there with a group of friends and under the influence of a day spend drinking in the sun, we headed over to get some tickets and stage our own race. We drove on both their “road-course” and their “sprint track” and it was a lot of fun. Some of us were more drunk than others and there was a few times I would come around a corner to find someone else spun around and now driving towards me! No one was injured and it was a good laugh…even for the people working at the track.
We made our way back to the track and I rode the large Ferris wheel at the track for the first time. You really get a great view of the whole venue from the top! I was surprised to find out that it’s the largest Ferris wheel on the east coast at 150 feet tall. After the carnival rides I made my way to a few turns of the track to watch the action and get some pictures before leaving the track around 3:00 am.
Sunday we started our day at the blue garage again, this time for the breakfast buffet offered by the track. We walked around the garages and saw some of the carnage as well as a few of the cars that had retired overnight. We left early to get back home and watched the incredible finish on TV before taking a much needed nap. It was a great weekend of racing and another great Rolex24. I’m not sure if I will do the hotel thing again, or go back to camping at the track. While it’s nice to have a room to go back to (especially for years when it rains) there is nothing quite like being there, camped at the infield. Something about getting so used to the sound of the cars that you fall asleep and wake up when they are NOT running, like during a caution and can only fall back asleep once racing resumes. There is also something nice about staying up past the 30 hour mark…that’s when things really start to get interesting.