The Eagle Has Landed
I've arrived. The flight from D.C. was uneventful. The drive from Orlando to Daytona Beach was nightmarishly congested. But all that tension melted away after I picked up my credentials and drove through the tunnel under the speedway and onto the infield.
In my years of coming to Daytona, I'd never been in the infield. Some true fan, I know, I know.
I never knew what I was missing. It's given me a new appreciation of just how huge the track is. It feels like Rhode Island could fit inside the joint.
And size isn't all that matters. You feel like you're more a part of the event in the infield, not just a spectator. It may sound cheesy, but I got the goosebumps. (Though maybe that was from the weather. More on that later.) I may never leave.
I was surprised -- I don't know why -- to find so many fans already here. I guess I'm used to covering political conventions, where only the media is in so far ahead of the main events.
I wasn't five minutes in the infield Fan Zone (an excellent spot for autograph seekers this early in Speedweek) when a group of Canadian dudes and a couple of girls from Fairfax, Va., asked me to take a picture of them together. They just met and were having a ball. I'll try to get the shot posted here on the blog sometime soon, as I promised them I would. The girls are hoping to get a picture with Jimmie Johnson -- because he's so hot, they said -- and Tony Stewart's autograph. I don't know what that says about Tony.
This is two years in a row I've bumped into fans from the Great White North. Beauty, eh? What's up with that? Shouldn't they be watching hockey ... or curling ... or the Olympics? More proof that NASCAR's reach is long and strong. Apologies for stereotyping, especially to my former boss, Jim Sheppard, who just returned to Canada to edit the Toronto Globe and Mail's Web site. I keep telling him, they need a NASCAR correspondent. Maybe he'll believe me now.
Apologies also for not getting the names of the Canadian and Fairfax fans to put in this post. I've had to spend some time getting situated and, most importantly, getting my high speed Internet connection in gear. So, I've let a few things slip. Hopefully I'll run into the folks I met later this week. I'm sure it won't be hard finding them among 250,000 other fans.