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Fear And Loathing At the Rolex 24, Part 1

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On: Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 6:02PM | By: John Welch

Fear And Loathing At the Rolex 24, Part 1

Oh muthereffer, did I really name this article in the most cliched, laziest fashion possible? Well, sure I did, but I have my reasons. Namely, "Fear and Loathing at the Rolex 24" is the best possible way to describe the end of my January. It was insane. Period.

First, a little background. The 'Shopper Blog has been around only since September of 2009. Grand-Am (the sanctioning body that plans and executes the Rolex 24) is owned by NASCAR. Combine those two factors and you can imagine how far I got in my quest to acquire Press Accreditation. Not far. It took five calls to Daytona International Speedway just to get somebody to tell me "No!" More on the ridiculously incompetent DIS staff later . . .

So, no credentials available, I figured I would have to wait until Sebring to cut my "endurance race journalism" teeth. Enter: Jane. My better half . . .

Google Chat Transcript:

Jane: "What is that thing you wanted to go to this weekend? I can't remember what it's called"

JD: "The Rolex 24 at Daytona. SIGH."

Jane: "What exactly was 'The Rolex 24' again?"

JD: "A sports car race that runs from 3:30 in the afternoon Saturday until 3:30 Sunday."

Jane: "And you couldn't get tickets?"

JD: "Naw, stupid NASCAR doesn't believe that we are an actual 'media outlet', and the tickets I need are too expensive for the 'Shopper's budget . . ."


Jane: "Well, don't be depressed,"

JD (whining like a two year old): "How could I not be depressed?! I wanna goooooo"

Jane: "Because I just bought us tickets . . . "

About a nanosecond after reading that statement, my brain imploded. I couldn't believe it. This is easily the kewlest grrl on the planet, and she gets me! She really gets me! Sneaky effer that I am, I neglected to mention the lack of showers, electrical outlets, and general comfort that are associated with this undertaking. Thankfully, Jane is way tougher than I am and none of that stuff bothered her.

So, got tickets, got coffee, got cigarettes, got a good night's sleep, time to brave I-4, and witness the first serious Sports Car race of the year . . .


UPDATE: "PorscheStag" video added at the end of the post . . .

The drive to the coast was easy enough. Rainy, sure, but we had coffee, and good conversation, everything was fine. Until we got to Daytona. After stopping for last minute supplies (mostly to purchase legal-tweak gas stations sell in tiny plastic bottles; I'm sure you're familiar), we gingerly thrust the Subaru out onto 'International Speedway Blvd'. The track is immediately on your right, and there are signs directing people to parking at each entrance. We had no clue which entrance we needed. This was the first of many reasons I needed to talk to the staff at DIS, none of whom knew any more than I did about how the tickets/seating/parking in the infield or anything else worked. Not good.

Space in this blog is as short as my temper was that afternoon. The rain was pouring down, it was becoming clear that I was not properly prepared, and I can hear the public address system announcing that the drivers are getting into their cars. All I want to do is stuff my ass in a seat on the front-stretch, post-haste!

To make a long story short, I refer to my notes:

Pull into parking outside of turn four, old man tells us about parking. He is very nice, has NO clue.

Park, walk to the info booth outside of turn four. Soaking wet. Talk to another old man. Very nice, has no clue. Walk around to the front entrance of the "Daytona Experience" to collect our tickets. The lady behind the counter informs us that she is getting married in our home-town, Lakeland. Ask her where the grandstand entrance is. Very nice, has no clue.

Walk back to turn four. Old man points us toward the tunnel underneath turn four for more information about infield parking etc. Nice, has no clue. Walk under turn four, to the infield, new info booth, new old man, new old lady. Both are very nice, neither has any clue.

This is the part where we all thank GAWD for Jane, and her ability to prevent me from strangling old people. It has become obvious that my temper-kettle is flowing over. She deftly leads me to the grandstand entrance (a 15 minute walk from where we were), and then up to the main gate. We enter the grandstands and memories of the Daytona 500 flood back. Gordon, toying with Earnhardt coming off of turn three and into turn four. My father cluing me into where the best sight lines are located, a memory which came in handy at this point. I grab Jane by the hand and make a bee-line for the "DePalma" grandstand.

We take our seats high in the second tier (there is an overhang and we are very sick of getting rained on) just as the PA calls for engines to fire. The spine tingles. The goose bumps become goose hills become goose mountains. The stands are barely a tenth full, and yet the excitement is palatable. Along with race gas and molten rubber, you can taste human emotion in the air. This is the best spontaneous decision I have ever been a part of.

Jane has no interest in, nor has ever attended, a sports car race. The first five laps of the race are run under caution, to dry out the track. Jane inches closer to the edge of her seat with each passing pace-lap.

Green Flag, the field roars down the front stretch directly in our line of sight. Crazy metaphors spring into my head as my synapses try to catch up with the spectacle they are witnessing. Aside from a WWII dog fight, a hundred feet off of the ground, I can think of no other human-derived spectacle that is able to completely overload the sense like an Endurance Race on the high banks of Daytona.

I take a glance at Jane. At first her jaw is absolutely on the floor. By the third lap run in anger, her expression has changed to one of exhilarated caution. Who knows what my face looked like, probably something close to the expression I might make if taking part in a Roman orgy. All disbelief and amazement.

Standing against the fence, right before the tri-oval, I had an epiphany of sorts. To love anything, your wife, golf, fish tacos, as much as I love racing, is a truly rare thing. It gets into me at the beginning of every year, this weird inexplicable excitement over something so pointless as cars revolving around a strip of pavement. I can't explain it, but I really love it. Racing's (especially at Daytona) visceral appeal is unparalleled in sports.

Pt. 2: Rainy day turns into bizarre, otherworldly night, and we discover that funnel cakes, Miller Lite, and 5-Hour Energy is not a great mix . . .

Below we have a rather Porsche-centric image gallery. A note about the images: I brought the wrong lens. I had no zoom. Some of these shots are from 3/4s of a mile away. Jane took them; she did an excellent job with the wrong equipment. Completely my fault; she hath saved my bacon yet again. Sebring will bring many improvements to the way the 'Shopper collects images.

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)



gator done | 12:45PM (Tue, Feb 9, 2010)

Now that Jane bought you "awesome" tickets to Daytona.. Any ideas on how you are going to reciprocate? I mean you were soooo depressed! She felt your pain and followed through on making you as happy as a 5 year old in a candy store. Us females have to stick together so I am advocating some kind of a BIG return here. Let's look at what she did for you. She spent big bucks on tickets to a car race that she had no interest in. She sat in the pouring down rain for hours and her ears probably rang for days. But she did it all for you seems to me that Jane is a wonderful person and deserves a HUGE thank you. Speaking as a female Jewelry is a great thank you! :
Great Story! I loved it!!

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