Memories of Daytona, Darrell and Dale

Panoramic View of the Daytona International Speedway by piresdennis is licensed under CCBY-ND 4.0

Panoramic View of the Daytona International Speedway by piresdennis is licensed under CCBY-ND 4.0

“…here’s to turning up, slowing down and cars that go real fast…We were laughing and living, drinking and wishing, and thinking as that checkered flag was waving, sure would like to stay…” — Talladega by Eric Church and Luke Laird

Life is all about the experiences that shape us. Life moves on quickly and we hold dear  the memories of the times we were happiest and saddest.

Every February, around this time, I am flooded with memories I’ve made over the years at Daytona International Speedway. I take a 200 mph trip down memory lane and relive the times I wished would never end.

Here are a few memories, some fun and some tragic, of stock car racing at Daytona:

  • As a 10-year-old kid I stood wide-eyed at the back Richard Petty’s pit stall when he came in for a pit stop. I was so close I could smell the burning rubber. It would be almost impossible today, but back then, we had pit passes for adults and when the guard was looking the other way, I snuck in a fenced in a restricted area.
  • Being in the infield in RV’s and campers with the Rossmeyer family and gang from Rossmeyer Dodge. Free sodas and all the hot dogs and hamburgers you could eat. It was eerily similar to what Eric Church describes in his song, “Talladega.”
  • My brother and I seeing Hollywood camera crews film scenes from the movie Days of Thunder where Tom Cruise is carried off in a helicopter.
  • Being freezing cold for a Daytona 500 race that I attended with my mom and good friends, Tom and Betty Thacher. There was a run on sweatshirts that day and they sold out in a hurry. I purchased long sleeved t-shirt in an unsuccessful attempt to stay warm.
  • Seeing one of my racing heroes, Darrell Waltrip FINALLY win the Daytona 500 in his bright orange Tide car. It was his 17th attempt to win and that day he was driving car number 17.
  • Going to the Twin 125’s with my good friend, Roy Collins. Roy was an extreme car buff and could answer just about any question regarding the cars in the races. Roy died of leukemia 5 years ago. I miss him.
  • A torrential downpour during the Twin 125 qualifying races that left me soaked and looking like a drowned rat. It took days to dry out my wallet.
  • Sitting in the stands with my mom as Dale Earnhardt slammed into the fourth turn wall on the last lap of the Daytona 500. It was his last race. As I write, today is the 14th anniversary of his death. NASCAR racing has never been the same since.

I’m thankful for the memories made and the new ones I will create. None of us is guaranteed our tomorrows, so we make the best of each day we are given.

Every morning, life screams at us to start our engines. It’s good to remember a place where the roar of the engines drowns out the pressures of daily life and where the fast pace of life is slowed by the addictive speed that is racing at Daytona International Speedway.

What do you live to relive?


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