Friday, December 10, 2010
Daytona International Speedway
Since it seemed wrong to leave Daytona Beach without visiting the Daytona International Speedway, we took the extended tour to get the full experience. I will confess that we are not race fans, but have spent enough time around a few to know that this speedway is important to a lot of folks.
Auto racing in Daytona started with racing on the beach and it is still possible to drive a car on the beach. Cars in those early years actually had faster times than the current races on the high tech tracks. From there is has become a major industry with heavy sponsorship. I noted a picture in the drivers meeting room that showed the last independent driver without dedicated sponsorship. I could not help but note that he carried support from the U.S. Coast Guard.
We started the tour with the infield and the Fan Deck, where before and/or during the race you can enjoy entertainment, watch the race teams work on their cars, and see the race from raised platforms. The Fan Deck is located directly in front of the team owners/drivers campground. There are also a number of other full hookup campsites in this general area along with others throughout the infield area. Camping is a big enough part of the grounds that they have a camping world in the infield.
We visited the car inspection area, the victory lane, the drivers meeting area, and the press room. It is a very impressive place. The main grand stands is nearly a mile long and holds 150,000 seats and the opposite grandstands holds over 100,000 fans. In addition they also have portable stands that they can put in place. Add in the suites and lots of RV spots, that adds up to a whole bunch of folks!
While we were there, they were repaving the race track for only the second time in its history. One of the facts that I managed to retain was the fact that on the turns, the track has an inclination of 32 degrees. This created unusual challenges for the repaving crews. They had to use bulldozers to hold the paving equipment on the track. Our guide mentioned that most people think that the track at the start/finish line is flat, when in fact it still has a 13 degree angle.
It was a very interesting tour. It ended with a slide show of all the winners through the years and finally on display, the winning car of the 2010 Daytona 500.
It is worth seeing even if you have no interest in car racing and a must see if you do.