After four months, NASCAR fans rejoiced as racing returned to Daytona International Speedway. With two big races in just as many days, the DIS has become a hotbed for action, not to mention the high temperatures. Most of the continental United States in being slow-roasted by a vicious heat wave but that didn’t prevent the masses Friday evening at the Nationwide Series, Subway Jalapeño 250. It’s only been three months for me, since as a fan of racing in general, my last trip there was to see motorcycles haul tail at the Daytona 200. However, I’ve been looking forward to this race and was not disappointed. Our party of three sat in the lower region of the Weatherly stand and it’s the closest I’ve been to the actual track itself. Except for when I walked on it before the water-logged Daytona 500. Every time the cars tore past, we were hit with a wall of wind and ear plugs were an absolute must. That’s not a complaint mind you because the race was for one hundred laps and all over in about two hours.
Honestly, the slowest bits were waiting for it to resume after a crash and although those were thankfully few, they were heartbreakers. First things first, the race was intense from the start. Usually, NASCARdrivers maintain formation until closer to the end but not this time. The top four cars completely changed at almost every lap. Drivers jostled for position and at times were three and four alongside each other. It was incredible stuff, especially when one considers that their average speed was something like 130 mph. Eventually, the heat subsided and folks could fully concentrate on the race.
There were crashes because that’s just how it goes. A brutal pile-up at Turn 2 took out fourteen cars including Clint Bowyer who was a late addition to the line-up. The race commentators said that it turned the garage area into a junk yard. It was almost a Ricky Bobby moment to be sure and stunned the crowd. However, there was a wave of genuine horror at Lap 82 when Danica Patrick crashed. A woman behind me exclaimed, “Oh no!” which pretty much summed up my thoughts as well. Danica had been very successful throughout the night and held the lead often. I really thought we would witness her first NASCAR win. Fans shook their heads in disbelief with their hands over their mouths. After the number seven driver’s emotional interview, some people immediately walked out with their heads hung low. They may have waited around to be sure she wasn’t injured. I didn’t “have a horse in this race” but was disappointed to see her exit the field, particularly after such a stellar performance.
The race went on and it was a rowdy fight to the finish with a bust-up as they took the checkered flag. The notorious Kurt Busch was the winner, although it looked to me like Austin Dillon was on the verge of victory; and Elliot Sadler was a force to be reckoned with from start to finish. This race pleasantly surprised me because it had the excitement level I’d normally associate with a truck race. Fans got their money’s worth and that leaves just one more race to end the weekend, as well as the events year at Daytona International Speedway. Tonight is the Sprint Cup Series, Coke Zero 400 and it’s going to quite the spectacle. I’ll be there and will tell you all about…the next day after I’ve recovered. Cheers!