Going To The Race!
The Daytona 500 is known as “The Great American Race” and is held every year on President’s Day weekend in Daytona, Florida. I’ve talked about going to the race for years. This year I went and WOW was it fun!
This race is a big deal to fans of NASCAR and forever changes the life of its winner. It is the first race of every season and has sold out the last few years. This year was no exception with over 100,000 fans in attendance!
The Daytona International Speedway is in lockdown the whole week before the Sunday race with all kinds of daily events leading up to the Daytona 500. It is a major party and the town and surrounding area must make a ton of money just off this one week each year.
It seems like everyone is in town for the race and if they aren’t, they probably wish they had picked a different weekend to visit. Hotels are full, restaurants are packed and virtually everyone is wearing gear advertising their favorite driver. Joey Logano is my driver, if you are wondering…
We slid into town on Saturday afternoon to enjoy Daytona Beach as I had never been to the area. We stayed in Daytona Beach Shores at a waterfront hotel. All rooms at the hotel are oceanfront and they aren’t joking! The beach was spread out below our 8th floor corner room and it was spectacular! We could see for miles in both directions and the beach there is flat with soft white sand.
Daytona Beach is also one of only a few beaches, that I am aware of, that allow vehicles on the beach. I have been to ones in California and in Washington State years ago. It’s interesting sharing the sand with vehicles, but in Daytona there are clear lanes for vehicles versus pedestrians, which probably keeps accidents to a minimum. As a side note, vehicles are not allowed on the beach after dusk.
Saturday night we enjoyed the beach and headed to nearby Sunglow Pier for dinner at Crabby Joe’s. The food was good, atmosphere rocking and sunset amazing!
But seriously, we came for the race. So Sunday morning we headed to the Daytona International Speedway at 8 A.M. I believe the gates didn’t open until 9 A.M., but we wanted to see all we could see and buy souvenirs before the race, which started at 2:30 P.M. Okay, so this may have been a little early for me I have to admit, but I was with three other hard core NASCAR fans. What was I to do?
Daytona 500 Parking
So off we went. Since my husband has been to the race the last few years, he knew where to park to avoid the heavy traffic after the race, We paid $20 and parked at Mainland High School off Highway 92 and walked the rest of the way to the speedway, maybe a mile at most.
I guess everyone else decided to get to the race early too! There were people everywhere giddy with excitement and proudly wearing their NASCAR gear. We were all one big happy family.
Lots to Do
Once you are on the Daytona International Speedway grounds, there is stuff to do all around the track, both inside and outside the gates. There are booths selling different driver’s and team’s gear to famous statues to take pictures in front of to booths having activities that you can participate in.
Daytona 500 Tickets
We eventually made our way to the infield, which we had tickets allowing us entry. One thing to note, there are several types of tickets for additional cost dependent on what you are interested in doing. All of this information is available on the Daytona International Speedway website.
Once we made our way to the track, we were able to take pictures next to the driver’s cars and see the pit boxes and take pictures there as well. Since we had the UNOH Fanzone tickets, we were able to wait and get front row for the pre-race concert featuring Jake Owen. After the short concert, we headed to the steeply banked track to stand and watch the announcement of the drivers and see them pass by in the bed of a pickup truck. If you are still down on the infield, you won’t have as good a view.
Seating is Critical!
Finally it was time to head to our seats. The Daytona 500 is run on a 2½ mile track, so this speedway is big! If you are planning to go to a race here, seating placement is critical. You will want to sit in the higher seats, midway or above, in order to see the entire track. Our seats were after turn 4 and before the start/finish line and midway up in the stands.
Protect Your Ears
I could see the entire track and felt like I didn’t miss a thing. My husband brought us a small radio and each of us had headphones so we could not only tune out the loud engines as they passed by us, but we could also follow the race on a local radio station, making the 200 lap – 500 mile race that much better. Some type of hearing protection is an absolute must! When the 40 cars drive by the stands, it sounds like a jet engine and can hurt your ears. So go prepared!
Thrills & Wrecks
Loud noice and all, I loved the race! I didn’t really expect to but I did! I got really caught up in the momentum of the race and how close the drivers got to each other. It is something to see as the cars race by at almost 200 mph and they are in a tight cluster. It is very easy to see why there can be devastating wrecks. This race was no exception with the last part of the race taking out almost 80% of the drivers. Because of all the wrecks at the end, the race went into overtime with Denny Hamlin ultimately winning. Joey Logano was still in the race at the end and finished 4th, so I was happy.
Post Race Analysis
It was a long day and we still had to walk a mile to our vehicle, drive back to our hotel and find a fun place to eat dinner. We ended up stopping near the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier and eating at a fun little bar. Every single person in the place had come from the race and everyone was busy dissecting the race and reliving the moments.
Would I Go Again?
We enjoyed our dinner and then headed back to our hotel to walk on the beach before calling it a day. We were wiped out! It was a fun trip and I am so glad that I took in the Daytona 500 and also had a little time to explore Daytona Beach. Have you been to a race? If so, did you enjoy it? Would you go again? I think I might…