I completed my mission. If you don't know what I'm talking about then read the column below this one, but basically I set out to watch my first NASCAR race, from start to finish, to try and find out why millions upon millions of fans watch the sport each week.
What I planned on doing is sitting on my couch for four to five hours to watch the Daytona 500 in hopes of finding a reason to love the sport. What I ended up doing is sitting on the couch for seven hours and recording a meticulous journal of all the events that took place from the opening concert, to the commentators, to the commercial, and of course the race. Did I enjoy the race? Did I find that thing that so many other people across the country love so much about NASCAR? You'll find out after you're done reading my Daytona Diary. Come on! I sat through seven hours to find out my answer the least you can do is read through one column to find out yours.
12:25pm - I returned home from the gym at noon; psychologically prepared for five hours of cars going around in circles. I turned on Fox and was pleasantly surprised to see a Tim McGraw concert happening at Daytona. Well not pleasantly surprised since I'm not the biggest T McG fan, but it wasn't too bad. I especially enjoyed the ridiculous Daytona 500 jackets that they gave to the celebrities there. I wasn't using my undivided attention on him so I don't even know any of the songs he played, but I did find it funny that he had to hop in a car window of a race car just to cruise about 50 feet off the stage. That's when I learned that this was definitely the Super Bowl of NASCAR. Whenever you have lots of unnecessary events and props then it's definitely a Super Bowl.
1:00pm - The concert finished and I got to experience some NASCAR pre-game at the "Hollywood Hotel". That's what they called it. I forgot to write down the names of everyone, but according to Wikipedia it was Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond in the studio. The broadcast booth, which I'll get to soon enough, consisted of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds. I already prepared with a little studying myself by watching Jimmie Johnson 24/7 on HBO and also I watched Inside NASCAR on Showtime. The entire analysis basically consisted of them talking about every team move by racers and that basically every team had a chance to win the race.
1:18 - The start of the Daytona 500! Right as the race began we heard the insightful words of Larry McReynolds, say, "Reach up there and pull those belts tight one more time!" Then the catch phrase of the day came. I had no clue it was a catch phrase by Darrell Waltrip until I looked it up, but I guess he starts every race with this gem.
"Boogity, Boogity, Boogity. Let's Go Racing Boys!"
The race got off pretty smooth. Mark Martin started out in front with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. second and Jimmie Johnson third. The placement stayed the same for a few laps. Mark Martin moved up to first as he crossed the fifth lap, which got the broadcast team really excited. That's like getting excited for receiving silverware when you go to dinner. It really doesn't mean anything.
1:26 - We got our first wreck! Finally! It took eight minutes for a wreck. I thought NASCAR was trying to make crashes happen more frequent. This was the start to many cautions throughout the day. The crash involved Regan Smith, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Brad Keselowski. Yeah, I didn't know who they were either. I did learn that basically every time there's a caution that once the race starts back up basically everyone goes to pit row for new tires and gas.
1:38 - Mark Martin got caught in the middle of the two lanes of cars. I thought this was hilarious. Picture yourself at the front of a buffet line and you forget a napkin so you go back in between the two lines and no one will let you back in. That's basically what happened to Mark Martin. He just stood in the middle as everyone passed him and lost a solid twenty spots.
1:57 - This is when I learned that this Super Bowl is nowhere near the football's Super Bowl. The commercials were horrible. I got my first glimpse of a new show coming to Fox called Sons of Tucsonthat is about three kids who pay a thirty-some year old guy who looks like he still lives at his parent's house to act as their father. I know I've seen a movie with the same premise before. I think Sinbad was in it. I can't remember though.
2:06 - Lap 50 is completed. At this point I'm thinking the race is going pretty well. It's only been 48 minutes to reach 50 laps so I'll be done watching this race in about three hours or less. Everyone decided to pit again. I was a little disappointed with the pit crew displays. I thought they'd focus some more on how quick they were changing tires and everything. They put times up for pit stops, they displayed how many tires they exchanged, but that was about it. I just heard so much emphasis on how crucial the teams were so I thought they'd talk about them a little more. I did think it was cool how quick they filled up gas. I'd definitely like to roll through a gas station where some dude was out there with this huge plastic gas container and just poured it down the gullet really quick to cap me off.
2:11 - A preview for a new show on FX called Justified had a pretty cool commercial. The one guy from The Shield is in it and it showed him searching around a house with a shotgun and as he turns the corner the other guy points a pistol right into his face. Looked like some cool effects and FX has definitely been on point with television shows.
2:13 - We got to see an in-studio display of the front of a race car. They showed how the racers have some tape on the front of the grill of the car to block intake, which makes the car more stable. They said if you have the piece of tape on it's like having two new wheels, but some guys had to take it off due to overheating. I never knew 1/8" of tape could mean so much.
2:19 - We got our second wreck and this one was fatal. I'm kidding, but I wish it was. Okay, I'm kidding again. This one involved just Joe Nemecheck who was knocked out of the race from the damage. Somehow he didn't hit anyone else. Do NASCAR's have air bags?
2:25 - Another pitiful commercial. This one was from Nationwide Insurance where they tried to persuade the "World's Greatest Spokesperson" to come and market for them. The end result was that you had to go to a web site to see the rest of the video. I don't want to watch your commercial. Why would I want to visit a web site to see more of it?
2:40 - We get our second Sons of Tucson commercial. Still looks just as bad. We also got our third caution on the 81st lap.
2:55 - The excitement begins! Jeff Gordon passes Kyle Busch to take the lead and for the first time all day, the inebriated fans find the strength and ability to stand and cheer. I lifted my head off the pillow!
2:56 - Lap 100 of 200. Not too shabby. Still on pace to end before 5pm. I'm going strong at this point and starting to learn all the race cars now and getting into it a little more.
3:08 - I learn that every car out there is loose. This is supposedly because the track hasn't heated up enough yet so you don't get as much grip. Very interesting.
3:10 - A trailer for the movie Cop Out. Quick name me a good movie with Tracy Morgan?
3:12 - We get back from commercial and the racers are on their fourth caution. John Andretti hit a wall or something. Of course we missed it during a commercial. Just my luck.
3:23 - Red Flag is out! It is at this point where everything completely changes in the race. The pace, the broadcasting booth, the teams, and most importantly, my attitude. A decent sized piece of asphalt has been displaced from the track and therefore the race has come to a halt. It's a healthy pothole around the one corner of the track. The broadcast team says that they just have to fill it with concrete and it will be about 10-12 minutes before racing begins. I thought it would take much longer. I was right. Anyone who complains about sitting through baseball instant replays should have to sit through this.
I then learn that the track hasn't been repaved since August 1978. Are you kidding me? I understand you want heritage and tradition, but I can't believe during the past 30 years there haven’t been improvements in pavement to make the track better so stupid stuff like this doesn't happen. Maybe they just want to keep Dale Earnhardt's blood stains there forever.
3:24 - I'm much happier. I flip to the Penguins game and I lucked out because overtime is just about to begin. Ten to twelve minute break is no problem anymore since I get to watch the Pens play the Predators in OT.
3:30 - The Pens get a 4 on 3 power play in OT due to a holding penalty. They have to win now.
3:40 - The shootout ends abruptly after the Pens miss two straight shootout shots and Nashville makes both of theirs. Back to NASCAR.
3:45 - Still no racing.
3:52 - The third and still horrible Sons of Tucson commercial.
3:55 - Racers are finally allowed to leave their car to grab a bite to eat or take a piss break. They had to sit in their car the whole time before that. This pothole could still be awhile.
4:23 - An hour later and still no racing! I'm losing my patience with this sport.
4:41 - The broadcasters don't have much to talk about so they're interviewing any racer they can. We get a nice interview about the Speed Channel.
4:42 - A Larry the Cable Guy sighting.
4:53 - I flipped on the USA Women's Hockey game versus China. The score was 9-0 USA. There really needs to be a mercy rule for any Asian hockey teams.
5:04 - Cars finally begin to move again after a 1 hour and 41 minute delay. At least when there are rain delays in baseball we get to watch Mark Buhrle slip and slide across the tarp. This was just unbearable.
5:07 Lap 122 finally begins.
5:09 - The second "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity" is spoken by Darrell Waltrip. Maybe the delay was worth it!
5:17 - The announcers tried to take any positives they could out of the delay. They said that because the track heated up now that this would be an entire different race with cars racing three lanes at a time and speeds would increase. Speeds didn't increase and there never were three lanes of cars.
5:24 - First fire of the day and fifth caution due to #43 A.J. Allmendinger having some car problems. I love going by car numbers, but even the racers call everyone by their number.
5:34 - 50 laps to go! The race really should be over by now.
5:42 - Sixth caution. I was thinking, wouldn't it be a great idea if Google just sponsored every single race car? They could basically purchase the whole sport. Plus if you see any interview with a race car driver the first words out of their mouth is their sponsor’s name. Anytime they would be asked a question they could just respond with Google It.
5:49 - Please God NO! The pothole is back and worse than ever. More and more pieces around it eroded it. This is where I really get pissed. We hear from the broadcasters that this time they're going with a different option that dries much faster and is a very durable epoxy. Why wouldn't you do that in the first place? Completely idiotic. This better not last long.
6:20 - Fourth Sons of Tucson commercial. I think the show has been canceled already.
6:34 - Drivers are in their cars and getting ready to move again.
6:36 - The race is back on with the normal caution to begin with.
6:38 - Every single driver pits, except for one. The badass who didn't is named Scott Speed. If there's going to be the one tough guy during a race I'm glad his name is Scott Speed.
6:44 - The caution is about to end and it immediately goes back up due to debris on the course. This is more of an ordeal then I could have ever dreamed of.
6:47 - Race finally begins again without a caution and there are about 33 laps to go.
6:53 - There are 25 laps to go and Scott Speed is still in the lead!
6:56 - We have to have another commercial break with 20 laps left.
7:00 - Jimmie Johnson, the racer I wanted to win, blows a tire thanks to that sweet epoxy pothole and he's done for the day.
7:03 - Darrell starts getting really excited about Kevin Harvick. He yells out a "That car is crazy fast!" and proclaims him the fastest car on the track. He wasn't even in first place.
7:05 - 10 laps to go! The end is in sight. I think.
7:07 - 7th caution of the day/night. Ryan Newman just destroyed his car with about six laps to go.
7:16 - Due to the wreck the caution has been out and we only have two lefts to go. I learned that NASCAR has installed some new rule that makes it so that with two laps left there is a green flag, then with one a white flag, and then the checkered. If there is an accident before the white flag then it restarts to the same rotation again for up to three times.
7:17- 8th Caution. Did I expect it not to happen? The rule is fully on display as Bill Elliot takes out Joey Logano.
7:22 - Breaking news! A deal has been cut between Jamie McMurray & Kevin Harvick so that McMurray will draft behind Harvick and push him towards the lead. I didn't know there were so many politics between teams. This deal stuff just seems a little shady and unfair. Not sure if I like it.
7:24 - The green flag is back up. 2 laps to go. The best move of the day came here. The deal paid off and Harvick jumps to first.
7:24 - Harvick is in first for about 20 seconds and then caution number 9 is out! Sucks for him. Jeff Gordon decided to bump Kasey Kahne a couple times and he flew off the track into the grass.
7:31 - The final green, white, checkered flag sequence will finally happen!
7:32 - We finally reach a white flag. Last lap!
7:33 - Waltrip really wants Dale Jr. to win. Jr. jumps from 10th to 2nd. I think it was all from the encouragement he got from Waltrip yelling "Look out Jr., Come on Jr. Come on!"
7:33 - Jamie McMurray wins the Daytona 500! I have officially witnessed an entire NASCAR race that lasted 6 hours and 15 minutes
I just witnessed my first NASCAR race and I spent over seven hours doing so. I can't remember the last time I spent seven hours doing anything from start to finish. It was a wild ride for sure. I learned a lot from the day; probably more then I'd like to learn. I learned that I can stick to a commitment even when things change unexpectedly. I found out many new interesting things about NASCAR that I never knew before and I realized that you never know what to expect during a race. I don't know how anyone could gamble on this sport.
Most importantly, I learned that I will never watch a NASCAR race again; from start to finish. I don't know how anyone does it. I know people say they only need to watch the end of the game for baseball and I totally disagree with them, but in racing it seems like you only need to watch towards the end. There are no home runs or web gems that can change the outcome of the game early on. In racing it doesn't matter at all if you have the lead. I guess the wrecks are cool and those people are out of the race so it's good to know who's left, but it's not like any moment in the first 150 laps meant anything significant. If you don't wreck and stay with the pack until the end then you have a shot to win. I can see watching the end of races and paying attention to standings throughout the year, but that's about it.
I gave it a shot though. I really wanted to love NASCAR. I didn't find the thing that other NASCAR fans love. Instead I did enjoy the sport and respect what these drivers and teams do. I'll probably pay attention to the standings and flip to the event each week from now on. I enjoyed it at times, but not enough to become a fan. Maybe loving a new sport is much tougher then I thought. Maybe I just have to take baby steps. I've never tried to love a new sport before; most people have never attempted it either.
I'm happy I did it though and I'm still waiting for that good Tracy Morgan movie answer.