Updated: Feb 20
As any of you who regularly listen to the Miserable & Reckless podcast know, there is always one guy trying to talk about NASCAR. It seems like he gives an update every week because... well... it seems like they race every week... And they do!
From the Daytona 500 this weekend until more or less Thanksgiving.
"That guy" is me - and if you think I wasn't going to take my first opportunity on the Cold Cans Network to write about NASCAR well... I guess you haven't heard our pod.
This weekend is the Daytona 500.
It is THE biggest event in NASCAR and often called NASCAR's Super Bowl. It is a BIG deal. Since its called the Great American Race, the wise philosopher Marty Smith has repeatedly said every Great American should watch and every Great American should go - at least once. I'm inclined to agree with him.
I had the opportunity to go to the race - for the first time - in 2020. It was on my personal bucket list of milestone sporting events - along with the Kentucky Derby and The Masters. (There are other events on that list, but some events just transcend their sport and turn their winners into legends.) The atmosphere at Daytona was palpable. Borderline intimidating. Coming through the tunnel into a vast amphitheater of stands, asphalt, smells, and sounds - as far as the eye could see - I was in sensory overload. Five and a half football stadiums fit in Daytona. The amount of people - camper after RV after camper - the amount of infrastructure - cameras, lights, trucks, ambulances, - even the damn Goodyear blimp flying overhead... it was movement and action all around you.
The efficiency - everyone with a purpose, everyone with a task, all whirling around you - literally. (NASCAR will allow you to walk on the track and in the pits before the race starts. Imagine being in the Patriots locker room and on the field before a Super Bowl!) It brought on an excitement and anticipation I've only felt a few times.
Being in the pits was like watching men prepare to go to war - gearing up, loading out, checking - then rechecking - gear, pacing, waiting - a precise ballet of intense anticipation. Similarly, I have stood with a rock band - just offstage - waiting for the lights to come on and the energy to cascade down from the crowd like a wave of human emotion. Its that involuntary goose bump feeling. Its that "something big is about to happen" or "maybe I had too much caffeine" feeling.
That feeling is what sticks with me.
Daytona was the first race I had ever been to in my life. There was no gateway drug - I went full octane straightway and I was hooked.
That feeling returns to me every time I return to a track - no matter the size,
Every time I hear the familiar whine of the engines, smell the rubber, the gasoline... It is a feeling of childlike wonder, excitement, competition, and nerves all rolled into one. For me, it is unequivocally home. I'm not sure what that says about me. That home for me is the chaos and the competition and the near certainty of a wreck they call "The Big One."
The wrecks are no joke.
In 2020, I legitimately thought we saw a driver - Ryan Newman - die in front of us on the last lap. As his car came to a fiery rest directly in front of us, spinning what was left of the frame on its roof, I finally understood the gravity.
You've NEVER heard that many people go that quiet that fast.
And then... we left. We drove home. We just didn't know. (A few days later, Ryan walked out of the hospital - hand in hand with his daughters. He returned to racing full-time months later.)
People die doing this. 22 years ago yesterday - Dale Earnhardt Sr died doing this.
Senior's best friend finished 1st that day. His son Dale Jr finished 2nd. They mourned privately and they mourned publicly with the fans - especially Junior.
And then... they returned to the sport they loved. They returned to the sport that was in their blood.
They returned home. So... For all those reasons - the people, the pageantry, the rush, and the risk.
THAT's why you should give it a shot... THAT's why you should give "those good ol' boys turning left down in Florida" a watch on Sunday (2:30 PM on FOX)
And maybe, just maybe... if it hooks you... plan a trip for the future.
I'll be happy to head home with you!
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