Is there an art to watching something like the Daytona 500?
A few years ago I asked my friend Alan, a serial concert goer of all genres, 'how do you listen to music'? He replied 'I will listen to the piece as a whole then I may concentrate on one instrument. I may then flit to another or listen to a couple in combination. If I hear an interesting riff I will concentrate on that for a while. Then of course I will sit back and listen to the piece as a whole.' That pretty much describes how to watch the Daytona 500. It is pretty much impossible to take it all in as one would in spectating at a grand prix for example. The field is so large, they travel in a close knit pack, they run side by side and despite the clear numbering they are difficult to identify.
Now Unners thought it was a poor race. He felt that there was little talent on display, with no passing, no commitment and no excitement. Myself on the other hand took a different view. Yes I agree that passing was difficult but I thought the drivers displayed great skill and discipline in keeping the race going without a 'big one' crash. In fact, as I recall there were maybe 5 yellow flag cautions, two for minor confrontations with wall, two for engine blow ups and one for a blue plastic bottle on the track.
This then is how I watched the race. Firstly, I picked a driver to follow, Jeff Gordon. I picked him because when we first came everybody seemed to hate him and we British always support the underdog. Secondly, I picked the Hendrick team to keep my eye on. Three of their drivers qualified in the top three places. Thirdly, I kept an eye on Harvick, always a good clean and intelligent driver, Stewart who is the fans racer, Waltrip who I have nattered with at Goodwood and is the subject of my best photograph and lastly Hamlin who graciously survived an ear bashing from Danica. Fourthly and last, every now and then I just have to take in the whole spectacle of the colour, the noise, and the speed.
For Gordon the first half of the race was faultless. He headed the field, his pit stops went like clock work and he made all the right decisions. He was in control. At each restart he chose the bottom line on the track the top line being the slower. After half way he made the decision to restart on the top side maybe to get that side going. This was bad because straight away he was shuffled down the field. He never recovered from this and was often caught in the middle lane which was slower again. His race finally came to an end when he was caught in the only 'big one' on the last lap.
For the Hendrick team Speedweeks was good. They achieved 1,2, and 3 on the starting grid and had 3 finishers in the top 10. It was bad though because Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt had great cars and were disappointed not to bring home a win.
Joey Logana, driving for the Roger Penske team, was a good value winner. He was rarely out of the top 10 and always seemed to be able to make up places when it mattered. All in all it was a good day.
The race was held in the bright sunshine, with no major delays through major crashes, typhoons, track conflagrations and track surface issues. We were quick to vacate the speedway to escape the queues. We were largely successful until we came to a police barrier across the access to the 92. No worries we would drop down to the Speedway boulevard and turn left. When we reached the boulevard there was another police barrier directing us back to the speedway and eventually north towards Jacksonville. Two hours later we arrived back at the original barrier though on the right side for escape. The traffic planners and the police seriously messed up and we were not happy. It is often a catalyst that breaks an addiction. This for us may have broken the addiction to the Daytona 500.
There we go and thank you for reading.
Author: Peter Morris