US Road Trip Travelog: 20th February 2005

Sunday morning, and a move (via a cab) back to the Comfort Inn. I have to say that, despite my earlier impression, they are very good at finding me a room well before usual check-in time and that the room itself is much better than my previous one.

View from motel room
The view from my motel room says it all - it's overcast and raining.

Fortunately the weather doesn't matter today as the only thing I intend doing is watching the NASCAR Daytona 500 on TV. It's the first race of the season and one of the most prestigious events in US motor racing.

Most of the motels I've stayed in have cable TV with the sport channels but the only thing on since I've been here has been college basketball. I know that the US football season is over but was expecting some ice hockey. It seems, however, that the ice hockey season is on indefinite hold due to a dispute between the players and the owners over a proposed team-wide salary cap for the season. I've also tried to find bars showing English football but even the ones with 20+ screens don't bother, though if you're lucky you might find live arm wrestling. No, I'm not kidding.

Watching the Daytona 500
Watching the Daytona 500.

I think I've done my own preparations for the race extremely well, with enough beer, cigarettes and junk food to almost certainly bring about health problems. The pre-race build-up lasts two hours and the race itself another four so this sort of advance planning is necessary.

I'd watched NASCAR racing back in the UK but having decent commentary on it makes all the difference. I knew about 'drafting' - following another car very closely to gain a speed advantage - for instance, but never knew that during the race itself the team bosses will form temporary alliances with other teams so that one car will allow another to follow it and the one behind will nudge the one in front to make them both go faster.

That sort of collusion would have Formula One administrators in apoplexy, but it gets better. NASCAR is totally geared towards the spectator, so if one group of cars appears to getting too far away from the others then the organisers will bring on the pace car under some spurious excuse to bunch them all up together again. Sometimes they don't need to invent a reason for the introduction of the pace car, as an error from one driver results in huge accidents as they're all driving so close to each other. Despite all this it seems that the better drivers and cars seem to come to the fore and it was certainly a very exciting finish.

US Road Trip Travelog: 21st February 2005 >