Exciting to a degree, let down in one respect! The consensus of those here at the racetrack is one of conspiracy theory, Toyota paid to win this race. Heard it at the track in the grandstands, heard it walking out of the stadium, heard it crossing the street, heard it in line at Bob Evans, saw it on Facebook, this would be so disappointing and ruin the sport if it was ever found to be true. Toyota and Chevrolet have injector areas to Daytona Stadium so there have been big bucks paid!
As for sitting in the stands, the race was exciting. From a team standpoint the Joe Gibbs plus Martin Truex team were going to be unbeatable because they worked as a team. The fans in our area were all for Truex, is he the new Mark Martin? At one point it appeared the Chevrolets would get together and make a march, everyone was aware of the 88 of Junior. They were also very aware of the 4 of Kevin Harvick who had the save of the day after getting loose out of turn 4. Jimmie Johnson or Chad Knaus made the statement it was going to take teamwork to break the draft of the Toyotas.
From a race standpoint yes it was boring the Toyotas were a lead pack of five. On television that is probably what you saw the most of is the lead pack. From a fan at the stadium standpoint though this was exciting racing, two wide, three wide, no big one, just pure racing, with the occasional oops (especially the chevys out of turn 4)! The last 50 laps were mostly three wide racing from 5th place on back. The top side would get a run, then the middle would get a run, and you would think one of those two lanes would run up there to the front only to have someone side draft and stop the run. It was almost like this race needed to be run as a manufacturer race. Chevy in one line, Toyota in one line, and Ford in one line, may the best manufacturer/team win!
The green flag pit stop late in the race changed the race in so many ways! Teams got caught speeding on pit road, the Bowyer team had something come between the wheel and spacer plate causing a loose wheel condition and a second pit stop which led to Clint going a lap down. Carl Edwards’ team fought all afternoon to keep him in the race after he was shoved into the wall in the Chase Elliott spin on lap 20.
Funny things you don’t think about and you had to be there to hear it. One of the favorite questions from kids to drivers is what do you do if you have to go to the bathroom? Well at Daytona, the spotters all so important, like the copilot on an airplane, what do you do when they have to go to the bathroom? It was funny because during one of the long yellows you heard on the radio be right back got to go pee! Then the driver asked where do I line up and the spotter replied not back up there yet the bathroom is a ways away, on my way back up. Other interesting things we learned was Racing Electronics was sold to Fanvision last fall. Never did hear Junior on the primary frequency and did not realize his backup frequency was on a different channel.
As for the improvements of Daytona Stadium, they were marvelous! Seats were outstanding, the injectors (escalators) were outstanding. Moving the Midway to the area directly in front of the stadium was good but missed seeing the Clydesdales. Missed also the folksy atmosphere of the driver trailers. It was more like a store feeling than a Midway. Enjoyed the store shops on each level, instead of big store with lots of people in the way it was more of small business feel. The “bar” areas were nice to get out of the sun and watch the race on the big screens.
We did run a little test for the Daytona Stadium employees, where could we find Nachos? After asking three employees, including Customer Service, we found them at the snack bar immediately next to Customer Service, not exactly where we were directed. Everyone was pleasant in their answer; it was just most did not know where to direct us. The test probably comes from our days when we helped start the Kansas Speedway Pit Tour Club, we as Pit Tour team leaders ensured we knew all we could about helping our track guests.
Now that the new stadium has enjoyed their first event they will need to go through and double check all the nuts and bolts, just like racers should be doing on their racecars weekly. Diana’s chair lost a bolt on the very first day, we reported it, but apparently the bolt probably never had a nut put on it. Not a big deal there were 3 more bolts holding the back on the seat but just the little things that need to be double checked before their next event.
The only disappointment I could take out of the week is the Duels. This format for qualifying needs to be changed. With the advent of the Charter Race Teams these races have become dinosaurs. Qualifying on Sunday afternoon has also become somewhat outdated. Maybe qualifying on Sunday sets four heat races of 10 laps and just like at the local race track the heats would set a field for two 60 lap “B” features with the “B” feature finishes setting the field for the Daytona 500. No guaranteed front row until after the “B” features are run and if a charter team does not earn their way into the 40 car field they can buy their way into the field by purchasing the finish of one of the noncharter teams or simply add them at the back with a “buy in” provisional, possibly with the “buy in” provisional money going to a 501c3 charity.
Over all this was a great speedweeks vacation! The weather superb! Joie Chitwood, President of Daytona International, even made the statement as a promoter he starts watching the 10 day forecast in early February, this is something all race promoters and race track owners do. If only the meteorologist understood how much they effect the blood pressure of all the promoters and owners in the country! Well we had a great time, now to enjoy a couple of more days of this nice weather then home we come to get ready for the local racing season!