2014 NASCAR Daytona 500

I attended my first ever NASCAR race over the weekend. I picked a big one too. “America’s race” the 2014 Daytona 500 (the 56th year of the race) at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

Daytona International Speedway - Daytona 500 Midway
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona 500

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.

– Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936

The completely made up opening text to the hilarious NASCAR comedy:

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006 starring Will Ferrell)

When I first got to the speedway I spent a while wandering around the team sales stalls and so forth in the Midway. This was great for people watching and picking up souvenirs. Lots of cars were on display in this area, NASCAR drivers were being interviewed for the crowd and I also got to meet Miss Sprint Cup 2013 Brooke Werner which was fun!

Daytona 500 The Midway
Wandering the Midway
Ford Fusion NASCAR cutaway
Ford Fusion NASCAR cutaway
Ford Fusion NASCAR Daytona 500
Ford Fusion NASCAR
Brooke Werner - Miss Sprint Cup 2013 NASCAR Daytona 500
Meeting Brooke Werner – Miss Sprint Cup 2013
NASCAR Sprint Cup Racer
NASCAR Sprint Cup Racer
Driver interviews in the Midway Daytona 500 Kasey Kahne
Driver interviews in the Midway – Kasey Kahne
Hot Rod at the Moonshine distillery stand Daytona 500
Hot Rod at the Moonshine distillery stand

After a few rainy days the morning of the Daytona 500 was looking good. The pre-race entertainment and events kept the crowd happy in anticipation of the big race. The USAF Thunderbirds flyover was great to see too!

NASCAR Daytona 500 countdown
The countdown begins
Goodyear blimps  Daytona 500 2014
The Goodyear blimps float overhead
USAF Thunderbirds flyover Daytona 500 2014
USAF Thunderbirds flyover
USAF Thunderbirds flyover Daytona 500 2014
USAF Thunderbirds. YEAH!

America’s race started in warm sunshine. The noise and high-speed of the cars created a huge energy in the crowd. Very exciting!

NASCAR Daytona 500 pace cars 2014
The pace cars hit the track
Daytona 500
The race begins
NASCAR Daytona 500 2014
NASCAR Daytona 500 2014
So loud!
Daytona 500 2014
The field before the carnage
NASCAR Daytona 500 2014
Away we go!
NASCAR Target Car spin Daytona 500 2014

Alas the Days of Thunder magic of Tom Cruise did not quite work (another Talledega Nights reference. I love that movie!). At 2:15pm a huge storm and even a tornado warning hit the track! After 38 laps the race was temporarily stopped.

Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick

The storm raged for 4 hours! I have a new-found respect for NASCAR fans. Probably 70% of them stayed on and braved the storm (including me). We were wet and cold but the day went on (even under the grandstands was no real shelter as the rain poured down like a waterfall from above).

Storm hits Daytona 500 2014
Under the grandstand during the storm
Die hard NASCAR fans braved the storm Daytona 500 2014
Die hard NASCAR fans braved the storm

Once the storm finally stopped it took a further 2 hours to dry out the track with trucks specially fitted to tow jet engines that are aimed at the track and various other specialised drying machines. This process was fascinating to watch with so many vehicles slowly going around the track including semi-trailers to power the whole process for some of the vehicles.

Daytona 500 jet engine trucks dry track
The trailers on these trucks are fitted with a converted jet engine used to dry water from the track
Daytona 500 semi-trailers drying track 2014
It was amazing watching these big rigs going around drying the track
Track drying truck semi-trailer Daytona 500 2014 NASCAR
Track drying in process
Track drying Daytona 500 2014
You can see the success of the track drying process

So with much applause the race finally restarted at 8:30pm with the lights blazing and a dry track. This was a do or die close race, with the lead changing many times. 19 of the 43 drivers lead the race at some stage with the lead changing over 40 times!

2014 NASCAR Daytona 500 under lights
The 2014 Daytona 500 restarts under lights
Daytona 500 2014 under lights
The much anticipated restart to the 2014 Daytona 500 gave the crowd everything they were hoping for!
Aussie Matcos Ambrose No.9 Daytona 500 2014 NASCAR
Aussie Matcos Ambrose No.9
Turn 2 bank Daytona 500 Nascar 2014
It was great seeing the large pack of cars hitting the bank on turn 2
The speed and noise of NASCAR racing is something else!

There were spinouts and at least 5 major crashes (including one on the last lap). More than half the field were eventually knocked out of the race due to mechanical issues or the crashes (23 cars did not finish the race)! Some 11 drivers were knocked out in the last 10 laps alone!

The crash that ended the race for No. 9 Marcos Ambrose NACAR Daytona 500
The crash that ended the race for No. 9 Marcos Ambrose (Photo Source: NewsTimes.com. Photo: John Chilton, AP)

Despite many crashes and being close to midnight, all 200 laps and 500 miles were completed with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevrolet) winning the race (his second victory at the Daytona 500). He led for 54 laps and took the lead on around the 188th lap. It was a great victory constantly under challenge.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the 2014 NASCAR Daytona 500
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the 2014 NASCAR Daytona 500!

Denny Hamlin (Toyota) finished in second place followed by Brad Keselowski (Ford) in third, Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) fourth and then Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet) in fifth. Chevrolet had a great day with 3 cars in the top 5 finishers.

Earnhardt Jr. was my third pick to follow for the day as Aussie Marcos Ambrose and the very cute Danica Patrick (who also briefly led the race) were unfortunately both knocked out in separate crashes. The crowd support for Earnhardt in what was a very close race was very noticeable.

Danica Patrick NASCAR
Danica Patrick

Despite the weather and mayhem, what a great day it was. I have seen Formula One and V8 Super Car racing back in Australia but NASCAR is something else. The banked track adds a whole new dimension to the racing experience. The speed, the noise it was all very exciting!

Danica Patrick Crash Daytona 500 2014
Danica Patrick (No. 10) was out of the race following this accident (Photo Source: NewsTimes.com. Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP)

I experienced it all from sun burn to being partially soaking wet (a poncho can only do so much in those conditions). Eventually I crawled into bed at 2:15am totally exhausted after being at the track for about 14 hours! I now truly understand Americas love of NASCAR.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. What an introduction to NASCAR! I watched the race, but can only imagine the thrill of being at the track last weekend. I’ve never been to Daytona, but it’s something I need to do. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Deano says:

      Yes it was a fantastic experience. The rain wasn’t great but added a different dimension to the race that’s for sure! I have seen F1 and V8 Super Cars racing in Australia but not for a few years, so this was something new. The noise and speed made my day!

  2. Deano says:

    Reblogged this on Deano Around The World and commented:

    NASCAR! America’s race: The Daytona 500.

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