The unforgettable Daytona 500 for all the wrong reasons

By Jaycob Ammerman |

BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ … “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.”

I really hate waking up to my alarm clock, especially at 5:30 in the morning, but waking up to the great James Taylor made it just a little bit better.

Today, though, was not just an ordinary day. I didn’t really care what time it was.

It was the day where I would witness the world’s biggest spectacle of racing and rednecks — the Daytona 500.

I proceeded by doing my morning ritual, but this morning was filled with a lot more energy and excitement.

BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ … my phone has a text message from Flagler College junior Phil Rado which read, “Daytona 500, woooooo.”

Rado was as pumped as all of us Flagler students who were attending the race, which included juniors Chris Otruba, TJ DiMissa, Alex Argenio and Ryan Ledonne.

Our plan was to get to the race around 7:30 a.m., so we could have enough time to get our minds in to the race and tailgate.

But, in reality we did not know what we were getting ourselves into.

The six of us met up so we could all cram into a five-seated truck and get on our way.

Rado was dressed hysterical — cut-off jeans, Kyle Busch shirt, and a Budweiser hat.

All he was missing was the traditional redneck mullet.

According to Rado, “our clothing was not redneck enough to attend a NASCAR race, so we need to make a quick stop to buy clothes.”

Therefore, we went where all college students would go to buy redneck clothing, Wal-Mart.

The only problem with our “quick” pit stop to try to make our attire trashier was that it was already 7:30.

Wal-Mart turned out to be an hour ordeal, mainly because I could not decide if I wanted a Matt Kenseth t-shirt or a Danica Patrick t-shirt.

But, I knew I better: go with Kenseth because I did not want to be “that guy” with the Danica Patrick t-shirt on, even know she’s a great race-car driver.

We were finally on the road and making our way towards the Daytona 500. We arrived at Daytona Speedway around 9:30 a.m.

We tailgated for three hours and we were ready to start walking up to the speedway to get to our seats.

It was beginning to sprinkle, which worried all of us because usually in NASCAR they postpone the race if it is raining.

We proceeded walking, hoping for the sprinkles to stop. We walked through thousands of thousands of race fans to get to our seats.

We were all surprised at how many people were there. “I did not realize that there would be so many people at the race, it was so packed,” Argenio said.

As the rain began to fall harder and harder, people were beginning to shove each other to try to get into the Daytona Speedway gate.

We finally got inside the gate even though being almost trampled.

The time was 1:30 p.m., which was a problem because the race was supposed to start at 1:00 p.m.

The thousands of NASCAR fans and us began huddling under any shelter that they could.

“For someone who is a little claustrophobic, it was tough. There were so many people standing inches away from each other to avoid the rain,” DiMissa said.

The rain kept falling and falling as one NASCAR fan yelled, “Mother nature hates NASCAR.”

The fans started to become irritated as they had been standing under the shelter for 3 hours with no announcements of whether NASCAR was just going to cancel the race.

The rain had finally stopped around 4:30 p.m. and the fans were excited to finally have a chance to make their way to their seats.

“It was about time it stopped raining, everyone else and I were tired of standing,” Otruba said.

About the time we got to our seats, a NASCAR official announced that they were going to dry the racetrack and start the race at 5:30 p.m.

The fans cheered and cheered in excitement that they were finally going to see some racing.

But, at 5:00 p.m. the fans hopes to see some racing was shattered because the rain began to fall again.

A NASCAR official announced that the race was postponed until the next day at noon, which would be the first time the Daytona 500 had ever been postponed in its 54th year of running.

Many fans were angry because they had traveled from all over the world to attend the Daytona 500 and now they have to wait another day.

For some it was worse than others because of scheduled flights or having to go back to work on Monday.

As in the Johnson family from Oklahoma who flew down just so they could witness their first Daytona 500, “I am extremely angry because our flight leaves tonight and these tickets were Christmas presents for my two kids. What do I do now? NASCAR needs to make a change and maybe have races on Saturdays,” Dan Johnson said.

Just as Johnson was angry so were we Flagler students that attended the race, for which all of us have class on Monday’s at noon.

We began to make our way to the gates to head home.

As were walking out of the gate, hundreds of fans were holding their tickets up trying to sell them.

We told ourselves that if the race gets postponed by rain on Monday then we will all come back on Tuesday.

We made our way home all disappointed to not see the greatest spectacle of racing.

BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.

I woke up this morning disappointed and still worn out from the wasted day before.

I proceeded by doing my morning ritual when all of a sudden my phone rings. “Were going to the race, they postponed it at noon and it will re-start at 7:00,” Rado said.

I was very happy and ready for another chance to get to finally witness my first Daytona 500.

At 5:00 p.m., we all met up and crammed back into the truck and were on our way to the speedway.

We arrived at the speedway and it was sunny outside.

There was no chance of rain in the forecast.

The hour walk that it took us to walk to our seats yesterday only took half that for today.

The postponement must have caused a majority of the fans to not attend the race, for there were not as many people.

We made it to our seats and as the drivers doing their famous starting of their engines.

After two days, and thousands of angry NASCAR fans the race was finally underway.

The noise was unbearable, it was so loud. I thought NASCAR was going to be more exciting, after about 50 laps I was doing my usual stalking on Twitter and Facebook.

Three hours had passed and there had just been a minor crash and a caution flag with forty laps left in the race.

During the caution flag, Juan Pablo Montoya car went up in flames and he crashed his car into a jet dryer truck.

Montoya and the jet driver escaped the vehicles safely, but the fire kept blazing.

The flames kept growing higher and the fans knew that it would be a long time for the race to re-start.

Thousands of fans began to leave knowing of the long wait because crews would have to stop the fire then determine if the track was safe enough for the race drivers.

The fans were exhausted but determined to wait it out to see who would be the winner of the Daytona 500.

The cleanup took two hours and the race did not re-start till two in the morning.

The fans were even more upset as they were the day before. “I came to watch a race, not to see rain and a big fire,” Otruba said.

The forty laps that were left went by fast and the Daytona 500 finally had its 54th winner. Driver Matt Kenseth won his second Daytona 500.

How ironic that James Taylor’s classic “Fire and Rain” summed up the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

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