Monday, May 28, 2012

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona is the first race of the season for NASCAR and it's the "SuperBowl" of racing for the sport. We've (well, actually Steve only) thought of visiting as soon as we got to Florida so....

...on our way down the east coast of Florida, heading to St. Augustine, we stopped off to take a tour. You will have to read the entire blog because I saved the best for last...way at the bottom.

Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, but the history of auto racing at Daytona
goes back much farther than that.

In 1936, the precursor to today's Daytona 500 was born on a course that went down 1.5 miles of highway, then turned and came the same distance back up the beach.
The official tour tickets.

Our tour bus that pulled us around the track. We got let out on the backstretch. Interestingly enough, the entire racetrack has banking. The backstretch has 3 degrees. The Start/Finish has 18 degrees and the corners have 31 degrees.
NASCAR, and other forms of racing, have now instituted “Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier” wall systems. This is a floating wall inside the original wall, with foam and steal separating the two walls. The concept? When a car impacts this wall, it will give way making the impact much softer than hitting a concrete wall at the same speed

The SAFER barrier consists of sections of 3/16 of an inch thick steel tubing, 28 feet long and 8 inches by 8 inches in diameter, backed with thick, closed-cell foam block and retrofitted to the existing retaining wall of a racetrack. .

Photo showing the connecting cable system to strengthen the SAFER barrier.

Photo showing the connecting cable system to strengthen the SAFER barrier.
As part of the tour, we got to see the garages for the race cars.

Kim in Victory Lane ! (after winning my heart)

We got to go into Victory Lane where they roll the winning car after the race.

This is where you see the driver dowsing everyone with whatever the sponsors drink happens to be...Gatorade, Pepsi....etc.

The race is over, and you’re team has just picked up that ever important win after a hard fought day. Your driver has done his burnout and his polish victory lap, pulled into victory lane, and has gotten his Gatorade bath. After he gets his TV and radio interview, its time to pack the hauler and head to the house… Nope, not so fast.

It’s hat dance time.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. Whether you have been at the race live, or watched it on TV. Part of the victory lane activities is the traditional hat dance. The whole team gathers around the driver and the trophy and proceeds to take photo after photo, changing hats each time. Each hat represents a NASCAR sponsor, track sponsor, or team sponsor. There are Goodyear hats, Sunoco hats, series hats, sponsor hats, track hats… You get the picture.

The amazing cornucopia of hats that are ripped through during this chaotic few minutes would make even the Mad Hatter crazy. And its all done to show everyone involved a little love. Each entity represented in the hat dance will receive one or multiple versions of the photo for their records. They can and have been used in posters, advertisements, sponsor materials, and for office decoration.

These photos let everyone know that your company was part of a winning effort. It's really fun to watch them....and, even though everyone else is back taking showers and eating, these guys are still doing the dance BUT, they don't mind a bit....THEY WON THE RACE !

Joey Lagono in the middle of his hat dance.

Right before the photo is taken, the team has already changed hats.

The drivers' meeting room where all the drivers and owners gather before the race to go over the rules and any last minute instructions. You can see our sponsor's hat - DIXON, CALIFORNIA !

They painted the seats all these colors for looks...there is no more meaning than that.
The front grandstands hold over 100,000 people ! The back stretch stands hold another 50,000 people ! Then there are all the RVs and campers in the's one of the largest cities in Florida on race day.

We got to go up the the press box at the very top to view the entire track.

They had a dirt bike race right before we got there so all that dirt you see is where the green grass and Daytona logo is usually seen. this !

View looking towards the last turn heading towards the Start/Finish line.

Now...for the best was windy out so you'll have to listen closely to hear the narration.....and our laughter at seeing these 31 degree turns. You cannot believe how much of an angle they are until you see them live. The movie might take a moment to load but it's worth it.

View up the turn from the tour bus. Imagine cars going over 170 mph three-wide going around here !

Another view to show the steepness.
The tour director said you have to go a minimum of 95mph just to keep from slipping down.

In 2010, they completely re-paved the entire track. This is showing them scraping off the old road. Again....check out the turn angle.

Then they went and re-paved it....they used tractors at the top to hold onto the paving machine
so it would not slip down as it paved.

Like I said at the top.....that was the best part....seeing the steep angled turns....amazing !

Afterwards, we hung around the always-present Gift Shop but only bought a 50-cent postcard.

Nice, nice tour. Our director has followed the race for over 30 years as a sports reporter and now works full-time giving tours. He was a wealth of knowledge and very willing to answer all questions in depth.

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