Now that Super Bowl XL is in the books, another Super Bowl will take
center stage next weekend. The Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of racing.
On Sunday I will make my annual trek to Daytona Beach, Florida for
Speedweek 2006 and I must say that I'm just as excited this year as I
was in 1994 when I first drove through the famed checkered tunnel and
into the World Center of Racing. Talk about a thrill. I know, I know!
Many of you could care less about NASCAR and I can certainly relate.
Prior to 1993 I had never attended a NASCAR event and I couldn't figure
out how so many people could sit in the blazing sun for four hours
watching a bunch of cars make left turns.
In May of 1993 I attended my very first NASCAR (then Winston Cup) race
at Charlotte. The Coca-Cola 600. The longest race on the circuit. Not
out of choice but because I was a rookie sports reporter at WBTW-TV in
Florence, South Carolina. A television station just two hours from
Charlotte, five minutes from Darlington and smack dab in the middle of
NASCAR country. From that day forward I was hooked!
There just something about hearing the roar of the engines and feeling
the ground shake when the cars rocket by at speeds of nearly 200 miles
per hour. You just don't get the full effect of the races on television
despite the scanners, in-car cameras and surround sound.
You also have to have someone to root for, and preferably someone to
root against, to really enjoy the sport. Dale Earnhardt just happened
to be one of the first drivers I ever interviewed and even then he was
a tough guy to track down. When I got the chance to talk to "The
Intimidator" I was blown away at how confident, down to earth and even
funny he was. At that moment I found a driver to root for. Not a bad
choice since by that time he was already on his way to his sixth out of
seven NASCAR Championships.
Needless to say covering the Daytona 500 in 2001 was tough to handle.
Following the death of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona that year it seemed
just natural to start pulling for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and every year at
about this time I start to get a little extra pep in my step. As
Darrell Waltrip would say "It's time to go racing boys!"
I'll be sure to check in with Troy D. and Ellerbe from the "Super Bowl
of Racing" next week. So keep it right here.