Some NASCAR fans wait it out; others decide to leave track early
Just not on the track.
During two long delays to repair a pothole in the pavement at the Daytona 500, the real action was in the parking lot. Many in attendance bolted before the race was over, while other frustrated fans stayed behind.
“Everybody was disgusted,” said 54-year-old Craig Wood, who moved to the infield to watch after much of the grandstands filtered out.
Wood was debating how long he would stay. He was with friend Chet Boraski, 64, but was getting hit with continuous text messages from others poking fun at the long wait.
“Hey old timer, you’re going to have to take a nap to finish this race,” one read.
“Guess that stimulus money hasn’t come yet for Daytona,” another wrote.
Those who stuck around withstood temperatures dipping into the mid-40s. Some covered up with blankets and sweaters, others used the time to drink a little more beer and sing melodies.
The loudest cheer came after driver Carl Edwards was doing an interview over the track’s loudspeakers and proclaimed, “We need to go race.”
That would have to wait.
The drivers completed 36 laps on the repaired superspeedway following a delay of 1 hour, 40 minutes for the initial fix. The second delay lasted 44 minutes.
Those who didn’t leave were treated with a thrilling finish.
Jamie McMurray eventually won more than six hours after the start, holding off a furious push by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“What can you do?” Boraski said. “Things happen.”
Others didn’t wait to see how long the delays would last.
Rickie Davies, 31, was heading to meet friends in the parking lot to go home. He wasn’t in a hurry.
“What’s the rush?” he joked. “This thing might still be running when I get home.”
The 2.5-mile, high-banked superspeedway was last paved in 1978 and is scheduled for a $20 million repaving in 2012. But officials said it could be moved up if necessary.
Daytona International Speedway president Robin Braig apologized to fans for the long delays and said he didn’t blame those who left early. He said he will do everything he can to ensure delays won’t occur again.
Two of the three cars owned by Roger Penske crashed early, falling several laps behind after another pileup during a wreck-filled weekend.
A six-car accident on the seventh lap collected Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. The pair finished 36th and 37th, respectively. The accident began when Keselowski had a problem with a tire and lost control of his Dodge.
“I must have run over something with the right rear tire,” Keselowski said. “I blew a tire going into Turn 1 and the car just took off. The tire just exploded and took the right-rear quarter panel out. It’s a shame. You come here, work hard for two weeks trying to put a car together to do everything right, you study tapes, make all the right moves in the race and we only make six laps.”
Keselowski was 34 laps down when he returned to the track, and Hornish was 48 behind. Penske Racing still had Kurt Busch in the field, and he had led several times.
The accident also claimed Max Papis, Mike Bliss, Boris Said and Regan Smith.
It was the third race this weekend at Daytona International Speedway that had an early multicar accident. The Trucks Series race Saturday night had a nine-truck wreck on the first lap, and later a 10-truck accident.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a spectacular upside down wreck in the Nationwide race, and Danica Patrick was caught up in another wreck during that race.
Did you know?
-- There were a Daytona 500-record 21 leaders.
-- McMurray led the final two laps, the fewest ever for a Daytona 500 winner.
-- There were 52 lead changes, third most in race history.