Column: My new appreciation for NASCAR

How a few hot laps around the Daytona International Speedway totally changed my opinion on the sport.

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  • | 4:18 p.m. October 30, 2017
  • Ormond Beach Observer
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I have never been a fan of NASCAR — or any form of automobile racing, for that matter. To be frank, cars — whether they’re fast or slow — bore me, and I know very little about them. (Am I supposed to pull over when the "check engine" light comes on?)

But when I got the opportunity to speed around the track at the Daytona International Speedway for a few hot laps, my interest was piqued.

I spoke at a media discussion panel to about 40 public relations professionals on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 25 at the speedway's media center. The discussion was agonizingly monotonous, and I already despise public speaking to begin with. (There’s a reason I’m in the print business.) Not to worry, though, I told myself. I was there for the hot laps. And eventually, my time came.

I’m not exactly sure what I was feeling when I hopped into the back of the silver Chevy Impala: excitement, nervousness, fascination and maybe a dash of dread?

The car used to drive around the track at the Daytona International Speedway. Photo by Ray Boone
The car used to drive around the track at the Daytona International Speedway. Photo by Ray Boone

The driver introduced himself as Chris. He seemed friendly enough, and he had a slight Southern drawl, so that was a bit relaxing. Not to mention, T. Swizzle’s “… Ready For It?” was gently playing on the speakers, so I guess that helped calm the ole nerves, too.

Like I said earlier: I’ve never been a fan of NASCAR. But as soon as our car peeled out and onto one of the most famous racing tracks in the entire world, I became inclined to reassess my opinions on automobile racing: Driving around the track gave me a whole new appreciation for the sport.

Firstly, we were speeding around at roughly 130 to 135 miles per hour. I’ve never gone that fast in a car before, and I can’t imagine the feeling of going much faster, especially being surrounded by dozens of other cars only inches apart.

Fun fact: The fastest speed ever recorded at the Daytona 500 was 210 mph by Bill Elliott in 1987. I can’t comprehend that.

In addition, the narrow width and steep angle of the track blew my mind.

The Daytona 500 is a 40-car field. How two cars could ever race around that track is beyond me. The fact that 40 can do so without constant fatality seems like a miracle. In addition, the angle of the track was so sharp, I could have sworn our car was perpendicular to the base of the track. It made me slightly dizzy.

I honestly don’t know how NASCAR drivers do it. Not only how they race, but how they even survive the conditions they drive in.

I used to think racing was all about driving in a circle really, really fast. What's so hard about that?

But after my experience at the speedway, it's clear racing is more than that.

NASCAR, you have my attention.


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