Daytona 500


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We bought a four-day package for the Daytona 500 that included the Can-Am Duel on Thursday night, the NASCAR truck race on Friday night, the Xfinity Series race on Saturday and of course, the Daytona 500 on Sunday. We had great time watching the races, and being at the Daytona 500 was super-exciting. But a real higlight for us was spending Thursday in the UNOH FanZone inside the track area adjacent to the garages and pit road. We watched the teams prepare and put the cars through technical inspections, toured the garage area, spotted some famous drivers, and even got to walk out onto the track and sign our names.

Trip highlights from February 23rd through 26th, 2017 at Daytona International Speedway follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

2/23/2017
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Seafair Miami

The 222-ft mega-yacht Seafair Miami arrived into Halifax Harbor Marina today to host the Daytona 500 Bash, a party for drivers and special guests. The $40M vessel was purpose-built to navigate the ICW, with a 57-ft air draft to fit under the fixed 65-ft bridges. The ship is massive, and looks even more huge towering over the fuel dock and dwarfing the nearby pleasure craft. The vast expanse of steel completely eliminated WiFi coverage in the marina and their Friday-night fireworks display covered all the boats with partially burned fireworks debris.
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Daytona

At the Daytona International Speedway waiting to enter the UNOH fanzone. We’ll reach the infield through the tunnel under corner four the second they open it up for us. It’s a little wet today, but should clear up for Can-Am Duel 150s racing tonight.
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Truck Inspection

NASCAR is fairly nimble in adjusting rules to keep the racing close, safe, and competitive. The teams are fairly nimble at “interpreting” the rules and finding loopholes. As a consequence, the NASCAR technical inspection process has become a science where every detail is checked before the cars are allowed to qualify or race. Here suspension geometry is being verified on the NASCAR trucks.
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Gas Cans

NASCAR-approved 12-gallon fuel cans used to fill the 22-gallon in-vehicle fuel tanks. If you ever find yourself in an argument with a NASCAR gas man, remember that he’s used to running with and tossing around these 81-lb containers like toys. Note the no spill fitting and the clear hose vent system to make the can level visible.
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Main Stretch

View to the stands from the FanZone. The speedway has painted the seats random colors so they appear to be filled even when empty. NASCAR attendance tends to track the economy and, no surprise, it’s usually strongest when the economy is as well. But there is increasing evidence that NASCAR popularity is slipping somewhat and some tracks, including Daytona, have removed seating.
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Window

One of the excellent FanZone features is windows into each garage area. NASCAR really does a great job for the fans.
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Toolbox Envy

Mmmmmm … toolbox.
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Restrictor Plate

Over the years, speeds have ramped up at all largest NASCAR tracks as the cars improve and the engineers keep finding more horsepower. At most NASCAR tracks, the speed is controlled somewhat by corners but the 33-degree banking at the massive 2.5 mile tri-ovals of Daytona and Talladega allows the speeds to escalate without bound. Running these big, heavy cars well over 200 MPH can get dangerous. In an effort to keep the racing safer for fans and, potentially for drivers, NASCAR mandates the use of restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega. These plates restrict the amount of air that can get to the engine intake, which reduces engine output to around 430 hp down from an estimated 750-800 hp normally used. The good news is that it’s probably safer for fans. The bad news is that the racing at the restrictor plate-limited tracks becomes a procession where anyone in the top 20 positions can win and no leader can draw away from pack regardless of driving skill or car preparation. Another downside is the cars run so close together, often pushing each other, that even the tiniest mistake will yield a 15+ car accident. Too frequently, the best drivers and cars aren’t around at the end of the race.
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Air Titan

Most of the day a whole fleet of Air Titan trucks were out drying the track. These trucks carry high-pressure blowers that pump air through hoses to nozzles dragged on the track. The blower strength is so high that they almost form a squeegee, forcing water out of the track. NASCAR also has pickup trucks with jet engines installed in the bed that blow onto the track. These are used both to dry the track and to efficiently clean off debris during yellow flags.
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Tech Inspection II

At this NASCAR technical inspection station, officials are measuring rear spoiler height, front splitter height, checking for track clearance using a laser beam, and checking compliance with chassis and suspension rules.
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Victory Lane

This will be one crazy place at the end of Sunday’s Daytona 500.
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Garage Area

The view down the road between the garage area and pit road from a balcony above the garages.
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Napa No 24

Back-to-back Daytona 500 pole winner Chase Elliot’s Napa No. 24 car being wheeled out to tech inspection. His father Bill Elliott, aka “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville”, ran in many of the live races we’ve watched.
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M&M No 18

One of the first things we did on entering the FanZone is get ourselves on the list for a garage tour. Tours run every half-hour and are limited to 15 people, so slots are scarce. This is Kyle Busch’s M&M No 18 car in the garage.
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Tech Inspection III

At high speed tracks like Daytona, even an 1/8 of an inch off the width of the car could propel that ride to victory. NASCAR uses templates that are exactly the legal dimensions of the car across several planes. Above, and in the video https://youtu.be/Vnm3hffpU7o, you can see these templates being used. The plate is lowered to the race car body and an inspector checks that a feeler gauge doesn’t fit between the template and the race car body.

The exact shape up front has a massive impact on air resistance so these dimensions are checked especially closely. Above and in the video you can see the wheeled templates that have to exactly fit the car. Because there are three different manufacturers competing, there is one front template for each of Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota.

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Rusty Wallace

Rusty Wallace recognized Jennifer and rushed over to say hello. Well, not so much. But she did shake his hand. We’ve often seen the former Winston Cup Chamption racing live when we used to drive down to Michigan International Speedway from Toronto in the 1990s. He’s one of the best.
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Junior

Perennial most-popular driver Dale Earnhart Jr was in the garage talking with his crew preparing for the Can-Am Duel that evening. The two 150-mile races that make up the Can-Am Duel Thursday night sets the starting position for the Daytona 500.
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Covers

Back on the balcony above the garages looking down on all the cars that have passed tech inspection and are now sitting covered and ready to race tonight. The crews aren’t allowed access to the cars at this point except under the watchful eye of a NASCAR official.
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Kyle Petty

Kyle Petty (on the right), son of seven-time NASCAR champion”King” Richard Petty, is another NASCAR driver we’ve seen race frequently.
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Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds will be doing a flyover for the Daytona 500 and were practicing today.
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Not So Sure

We’re not sure what this is, but we hope it tastes better than it looks.
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Waiting To Cross

Our FanZone tickets give us access to the track when it opens later in the afternoon. A big crowd had built up waiting for the gates to open.
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War Wagon

We entered the track by crossing pit road. Each team has a “war wagon” at their pit for the crew to monitor the race. On top are seats for up to eight and below the crew can monitor the weather and track data such as fuel consumption and tire wear.
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Pit Lane

The cars lined up on the track ready for tonight’s Can-Am Duel.
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On the Track

Wild to be out on the track at Daytona!
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SAFER Barrier

The SAFER barrier is racing safety breakthrough at NASCAR tracks. SAFER is a Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barrier designed by a team of engineers lead by Dean Sicking at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Developed between 1998 and 2002, the first installation was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2002. It’s now in use at nearly every NASCAR and IndyCar track.

The principle behind the SAFER barrier is a smooth sheet of steel with high-density closed-cell foam behind. The steel spreads the energy out over a wider area and the closed cell foam absorbs it. Key in the design is the outer steel panel being sufficiently strong that cars will normally not pierce or get under it, which takes off energy too quickly and leads to driver injury. Instead, the cars just slide down track with the wall absorbing energy and deflecting the car back across the track rather than catching on the wall and being rolled or flipped which can be hard on cars, drivers, and even fans. SAFER has really made the sport far less dangerous even as speeds continue to escalate at most tracks.

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Signing the Track

Jennifer was very keen to sign the track at Daytona International Speedway. James still says he has her beat in signing the outer door of the upper port side missile tube on the USS California while cruising 500ft below the surface.
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Dinner

The race didn’t start until 7:00pm so we had time beforehand for a bite to eat with a great view east from the speedway. There’s little better than NASCAR racing under the lights. Daytona recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation of the stadium and they’ve done an awesome job. The facility is beautiful, getting to and from the seats is efficient and easy, and we hardly had to stand in a line the entire weekend, even on Sunday. This is the nicest facility we’ve ever seen across all sports.
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Start Your Engines!

The field lined up on pit road ready for the Can-Am Duels. For Daytona, only the front row is decided during standard qualifying. The finishing order in the two 150-mile Can-Am Duel races, formerly called the Twin 125s, set the majority of the starting grid.
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Lets Go Racing!

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the pole as the pace car leaves the track at the start of the second Duel. It was awesome to watch a NASCAR race live again after so many years. Earnhardt was very strong and led the majority of the race, but was eliminated from the race by a crash in front of him.
2/24/2017
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Tia Coris Tacos

We walked down to Tia Cori’s Tacos for a great meal before the NASCAR truck race at 7:30 tonight.
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Anthem

Just before race time, each truck is positioned at the start of the pit road with the crew lined up beside for the national anthem. The cars look beautiful under the lights as each crew tensely waits to learn what an off-season of hard work has produced. In a couple of hours, one of these cars will be in victory lane and a good many crews will loading up and heading home to rebuild seriously damaged trucks.
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Racing Under the Lights

Many stock car racers learned their sport racing under the lights at the many short tracks across the country. Friday night at Daytona International Speedway is a great way to start the Camping World Truck Series for 2017 and, for many of these drivers, this will be their first race in the series. Time to go racing.
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Restart

The field accelerating up to speed through the tri-oval as the green flag waves for a race restart after a yellow flag. 32 cars remain able to compete for the first victory of the year.
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Pit Crew

Bobby Gerhart in for a pit stop on his way to finishing 21st. A modern NASCAR pit stop is like a drag race. Exciting but over so quickly it’s hard to really see the details in real time.

Here you can see the jack man dropping the car as the front wheel changer finishes up tightening the lug nuts. The rear tire changer is long since done at the right rear and is sprinting to the left side for the next change. The crew chief is on the toolbox above using a stop watch to see how the team is performing, with other teams, fire crew, and officials all watching carefully.

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Body Work

J.J. Yeley is in trouble here where, like most of the field over the course of the race, he’s been involved in a multi-car wreck. Small changes in aerodynamics make a huge difference at super-speedway racing speeds and the crew is dealing with front end damage where the hood has been pushed back and it’s buckled up.

After carefully preparing the car to be aerodynamically clean and having then been checked by NASCAR with a template and feeler gauge to be exactly the legal shape, they are now down to using a couple of 240-lb crewmen to push the hood back down to something close to what they started with. They did well, avoided going a lap down while completing the bodywork, and Yeley eventually brought the car to a 9th place finish.

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Daytona 500 Bash

The massive Seafair Miami hosting the “Daytona 500 Bash, a drivers party and Fox media event at Halifax Harbor Marina. This 222-ft steel mega-yacht is designed for shallow intra-coastal water operation rather than the open ocean cruising expected by most mega-yacht designs.
2/25/2017
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Hosing Off

Jennifer hosing off the boat. The Daytona 500 Bash fireworks display last night covered all the boats in the marina with partially burned fireworks debris. At least we got to enjoy it a bit—we could see the fireworks display from our seats at the Truck race at Daytona International Speedway last night.
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Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds were practicing today and their flight path was right over the marina. We could almost reach out and touch them.
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Seafair

An assist boat arrived this morning to accompany the 228-ft mega-yacht Seafair Miami out of our marina and presumably back to Miami. The video https://youtu.be/ojLaA7Dc8aI shows the Seafair Miami working out the channel with only feet to spare on either side. The assist boat is taking up the stern radioing distances back to the captain in the SeaFair Bridge.
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Powershares QQQ 300

It’s just 10 minutes prior to the flag dropping at this point on the NASCAR Xfinity Series Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona. The national anthem has been sung and all the crews have been cleared out leaving the drivers alone in their cars as the last of the crews clear the area. For the drivers, it’s been a busy weekend of sponsor meetings, interviews, prepartion, qualifying, and other commitments but none of that matters at this point. Now it’s time for a deep breath, last minute radio checks, thinking through race strategy, and focusing on settling down and not making any early race mistakes. The pace car will soon pull out onto the 33 degree banking of corner 1 leading the field towards the green flag.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series is the second-most prestigious stock car touring series after the Monster Cup cars that will race in the Daytona 500 the next day. Many young drivers that will someday be household names racing in the premier series will race first in the Xfinity series, so it is a chance to see the best in the nation on their way to Monster Cup. And, many of the Monster Cup drivers race in this series as well, so the quality of competition is very high. And, just as Junior A hockey is sometimes more exciting than NHL, so too here. Many of these drivers really do have something to prove and they go hard.

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Race Start

It’s finally time to forget about the press, the sponsors, and all other distractions and get to work. The pace car controls the speed of the 40 car pack as they head towards the starting line. At the last second the pace car turns sharply to the left to head down the pit lane. They drivers throttle up and the speed increases rapidly as the entire field thunders towards the tri-oval anticipating the green flag. All eyes are on the flagman as they wait for the first hint of a green flag and the begining of a big day at the office.
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Close Quarters

Tracks like Daytona have much more space than most short tracks but still, during buys green flag stops when every second matters, the pit area is remarkably cramped. Cars are entering and leaving their pits while crews are changing tires and fueling competitors in adjoining pit stalls. It’s amazingly rare that a crew member gets hit but it’s always close and contact does sometimes happen.
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Pit Crew 1

Anthony Kumpen has just run at the speed limit down pit lane before throwing the wheel over to the left at the last second to enter his pit. His pit crew can’t legally cross the wall until he is one pit stall away and yet before he slides to a stops the right front tire man is sliding in on his knees to where the driver will (nearly) always put his right front wheel. Already some lug nuts are off even though the jack man hasn’t yet lifted the car. The jack man is just begining the first of two big strokes that will lift the car and, by that time, both right side tires will be free. The tire carrier is just arriving with the new tire. Teams are allowed six crew over the wall but this particular stop is early in the race and they are only changing the right side rubber and won’t be taking much fuel. It’s going to be a quick stop.
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Pit Crew 2

It’s only been seconds since the previous picture but the right side tires are changed, the old tires have nearly been carried back to the pit wall and the front tire changer is in full sprint to get himself and the air hose out of the way of the soon to be exiting race car. The jack man is slightly behind but picking up speed. The moment he clears the front of the car the crew chief will be yelling, “go, go, go” and Kumpen will dump the clutching trying to get enough wheel spin to avoid stalling with the tall gears they use at Daytona. The fuel man, wearing a silver fireproof vest, has just completed his work and passed the gas can back over the wall. The gas man is still beside the car ready to help push the car back to life if the driver stalls on pit lane exit.
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Red Flag

It’s a 300 mile race this is far too early in the race for a big accident. But this is the first race of the year, many drivers are in their first Grand National competition, and racing at Daytona has been a life long goal. The racing has been hard from the drop of a flag, as it was clear from the first lap that a mistake would happen soon. The wreck started towards the front of the pack, as is typical of restrictor plate racing, where a small mistake impacted a large number of cars. There is wreckage and debris everywhere and NASCAR has red-flagged the race to allow the safety crews to clear the wrecked cars and debris.
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Clearing the Track

Another accident and another red flag. This is a smaller incident in corner four it led to a short race stoppage as well. Note the angle of the safety crews heading up to help the driver in the car at the top of corner 4. thirty-three degrees of banking is amazingly steep.
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Twilight

The race started at 3:30 but, even though the race is 200 miles shorter than the Daytona 500 race scheduled for the next day, this restart is under the lights and the race won’t finish until nearly 7:30. NASCAR under the lights is hard to beat. Here the field is rumbling up to speed having just seconds earlier taken the green flag to restart the race. At this point in the race, only 24 cars remain from the original 40 car field and many of these are damaged. The crewmen have been hard at work on some cars during yellows trying to get suspension alignment back to something drivable and creatively reattaching body panels with massive sheets of tape.
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Uber

Waiting for an Uber to pick us up after the Powershares QQQ 300. Rather than drive back and forth to the track and deal with the traffic jams, we instead went by Uber. This worked out super-well and we’d do it again.
2/26/2017
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Race Day

In our seats just before the start of the Daytona 500. We’re wearing headphones hooked to a Uniden Bearcat BC125 radio scanner. Race officials communicate via radio, as do the drivers and their teams. Fans use scanners to listen in.
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Pre-Race Festivities

The infield was packed with fans taking in the pre-race festivities. The Daytona 500 is both the opening race of the NASCAR Monster Energy season and, if not the most important race of the year, right up there. It’s exciting to be here.
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Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti, who we’ve seen race in Indy Cars, was one of the many celebreties attending the Daytona 500. He’s the only driver ever to win Daytona 500 (1967), the Indianapolis 500 (1969), and the Formula One World Championship (1978).
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Lady Antebellum

Seven-time GRAMMY award winners Lady Antebellum headlined the pre-race show.
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Drivers Intro

Ryan Blaney (left) and Martin Truex Jr. walking down during the drivers introductions.
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Cleanup

We were impressed with how fast crews moved out the stages from the pre-race festitivites and got the infield cleaned of any garbage left by the thousands of fans.
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Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds doing a pre-race flyover.
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Landing

Race cars rounding corner two with one of the Thunderbirds landing at the airport directly behind.
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Pace Car

The pace car leading the pack just before the start of the race. The video https://youtu.be/32G3xxRF1DI shows the opening lap of the the 500 followed by Kurt Busch doing donuts on the infield after taking the victory 3 hours 29 minutes and 9 seconds after the start flag fell.
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Pit Stops

Under an early yellow flag most of the field heads into the pits for tires and fuel lead by Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick. Even this early in the race, pit strategy is important and we can hear extensive discussions between drivers and crew on whether they were taking two tires or four. And those drivers not happy with handling are asking for adjustments.
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Damage

Dale Earnhart junior has been having a super strong weekend and he’s been running right up front for most of the first half of race. There was contact between the car directly in front of him and a car that got turned into the wall. Junior went low but stayed on the throttle. If you back off in a restrictor plate race, you’ll pretty quickly find the back of the pack. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite have enough room and his right front corner contacted the car he was trying to avoid in front of him. The damage looks minor as he passes our spectating position at the start finish line but, having watched the accident, we knew it was worse. Earnhart’s car hit hard enough to climb right up over the car in front and then come down hard. The suspension damage was bad enough to end his race.
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Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson’s Lowes No. 48 car in the pits. Johnson is one of only three driver to have won the NASCAR championship seven times. He was knocked out of the race on lap 127.
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Caution

The caution flag flying from the flag stand as cars slide off the track and into the wall at the entry to pit road.
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Donuts

2017 Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch doing doing donuts on the infield following his victory. We aren’t really restrictor plate racing fans but it was a surprisingly entertaining day of racing. Unlike some of the races earlier in the week, we didn’t lose half the field to wrecks and the racing stayed close through an action-packed race day. The renovated Daytona stadium is a model for all other racing venues in fan comfort, convienence of facilities, and ability to see the action. It’s one of the premier facilities in the sporting world.
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Crowds

Daytona’s 101,000 seats were sold out and when all those people leave at once, the crowds are thick. We were planning to walk out of the crowds and then call an Uber, but ended up just walking all the way. We went for dinner at McKs Irish Tavern and were amazed to be one of the first there as the place filled up with fans who had driven back from the speedway.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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2 comments on “Daytona 500
  1. Elbert says:

    Late comment, but I have been curious if you still find racing as interesting as data centers – I’ve always felt that most modern-day racing naysayers might think differently if they actually went to a track, walked the garage/pit stall and watched a race in person. I’m not sure there is a better combination of human and machine functioning as one – til the singularity, that is 🙂 I still vividly recall seeing my first race with my dad – the smell of the exhaust and hot tires, combined with the speed and colors, hooked me almost instantaneously. Thanks for all the great Daytona pics and commentary.

    • We’re both super interested in all forms of technology from manufacturing, medical science, mega-engineering, aircraft design, and onward. Pretty much any opportunity we get to the see the best at any engineering discipline and how they have solve the problems they face, we jump on it. Racing is fun because it’s a set rule book with very talented teams innovating to find an edge, and rather than spending years to see which is best, it’s a 2 hour race. We love it. Generally I agree with you that the more you know about racing, the more engaging it becomes. In fact, I find that applies to all sports although I’ve still not found a way to get excited about cricket. More to learn I guess :-).

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