The couple down to the left is all decked out with matching outfits displaying Tony Stewart’s new team colors and sponsors. The family to the right is less unified, displaying gear and colors of several different drivers on their T-shirts, hats, coats — and even their coolers.Some in the crowd even show the devotion to the sport and their favorite drivers by sporting tattoos on their arms and legs.
“You’re here at the biggest and best race in the world!” said Jack Miller, a fan who had recently moved to the Daytona area
The more than 200,000 fans all stand clutching beer cans high as the pack of 43 cars come around the corner for the green flag at a rate of around 180 miles per hour.
NASCAR has a whole new meaning here in Daytona Beach, Fla. It’s a place where the sport was born. During the second week of February, the Daytona Beach area is flooded with fans from all over the country. The topic is all consuming and the fans’ favorite drivers are as diverse as the fans themselves. The comments are non-stop.
“Oh, you’re an Earnhardt Jr. fan? He sucks,” one person says. “You’re a Mark Martin fan? Oh jeez, let me buy you a beer!” The responses are always a way to start conversations.
Miller, a 46-year-old from just outside of Orlando, Fla., had just moved down from Pennsylvania. Why did he move? Simply because of this track and this race.
“I’ve been to races when I lived in Pennsylvania, but after coming to the 500 a few years ago, I began saving to move here. I will never miss another Daytona 500 as long as I live here. There is nothing on this Earth like it,” Miller said smiling slightly “It’s the rumble of the cars going by that gets you, and it gets you every single lap,”
Dale Jackson, from Portland, Ore., had driven his camper all the way across the country to make the pilgrimage.
“You got the best racing in the world. The crowds of people come here for the same reason,” he said sporting his Jeff Gordon rainbow colored coat and holding a Coors Light bottle with the mountains as blue as can be. “They have fun all week here, and then enjoy the racing on the weekends. I’ve been coming here for the last 10 years, and will probably continue for as long as I possibly can.”
Laura Fischer is a mother of two boys ages 10 and 12 from Nashville, Tenn. and for her coming to the race is a no-brainer.
“I bring my kids here every year, and as soon as this week roles around the kids go nuts watching TV and seeing commercials for the race. This is like bigger than Christmas for them,” she said smiling on as the boys jumped up and down on their seats under hats of their favorite drivers that are way too big for their heads. “I don’t feel like it’s a place where the kids will get hurt or be endangered, it’s a family friendly atmosphere. Anyone could come here and have a good time!”
Daytona has become known as the world center of racing and it definitely shows. As you walk through the parking lots completely lined with cars as far as you can see, you could pick out a license plate from every state in the continental United States, plus most of the provinces of Canada.
At the end of the day, race goers walk around aimlessly trying to find where they parked after an exhausting day of beer and sun. The smell of racing fuel had become normal and the smoke billowing from the sights of crashes completely hazes your vision for moments.
“I better see ya next year!” said Miller as he walked away in no hurry to be anywhere else but the Daytona International Spee