Attending the Daytona 500 with a NASCAR Team

Daytona, it is known as the World Center of Racing and has been the home to speed since the early 1900s when racing was still on the actual beach. It was also where NASCAR was born in 1948 when William France Sr. hosted a meeting with drivers in the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach. So when Suave Men®  asked if I wanted to come out and experience the biggest race weekend on NASCAR's calendar I, of course, said yes. 

Since 1959 racing in Daytona has been at the storied Daytona International Speedway on the 2.5-mile Tri-Oval which within three months of opening became the fastest race track in the world with its 31° banked turns. Besides being home to NASCAR's biggest races, Daytona is also home to the Rolex 24 Hour, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Trans-AM, the BMW Performance 200, and countless other motorsports events each year. 

Suave Men sponsors JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, who I first met at Texas Motor Speedway with Suave last year. We ran into Justin while we were walking through the garages to check out his car, you could tell he was excited, and he talked about the energy at Daytona and how important this race is to the sport and how it sets the pace for the whole season. 

That energy that Justin spoke about was real, you felt all around you, the teams, the fans, the drivers, were excited and looking forward to kicking off the racing season. My dad who is a lifetime NASCAR fan was the most excited I had ever seen him at any motorsport event. Plus, everywhere you went there were people, tens of thousands of people, the infield was packed, the stands were packed, the fan zone was packed, Daytona is at another level from any NASCAR race I had ever been to. 

After touring the garage we headed up to the suite where we would be watching the race, once you get up to above the track you can really see just how large Daytona really is, as one of NASCAR's longest tracks you can understand why they call them "superspeedways." Over the weekend over 100,000 fans will fill the seats, not including the thousands who bring their RVs out to camp and tailgate in the infield which some estimates put at a total of over 250,000 fans in all. The sound of everyone standing for the National Anthem reverberates through the grandstands and is only rivaled by the sound from the cars as they take to the track. 

It was time to get some lunch and watch qualifying while the US Air Force Thunderbirds practiced their routine for the Daytona 500. After watching several cars qualify, we headed down to visit the Suave Men display in the Fan Zone out front where there is basically a mini carnival with NASCAR-related games, sponsor booths, music, and lots of giveaways, Suave Men was handing out samples and had even had racing video games and a basketball shoot-out challenge.  

After qualifying, Justin and Dale Jr. came up to the suite to say hi to everyone from the Suave Men and talk about their partnership with Suave Men as a partner and how important Daytona is to their team and NASCAR. Legends like Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, and many others all have won at Daytona, to win at Daytona is to join the ranks of the best drivers in the world, and Justin was hoping to take home his first Daytona victory. Dale Jr. would be driving the "pace truck" at the Daytona 500, a Chevrolet Silverado, the first time a truck has ever been the official pace car of the race.

Once qualifying is over and before the race starts fans can get out on the track and watch the driver introductions, get autographs, and take part in the Daytona tradition of signing the track near the start/finish line. That access and connection between the teams and the fans are what makes NASCAR so unique, plus when you are walking around the start-finish line you get to experience the front straight's 18° banking, which many people were having a hard time walking up, and down, then you remember that the corners are banked 31°. We were told that the corners are so steep you can stand up and lean forward and touch your nose to the pavement.

The race kicked off in the afternoon and through 300 miles of tough racing, Justin started working his way up to the top front of the pack. Everyone in the Suave Men suite was pulling for Justin to win as he climbed to the top ten, then to the top five, and then all the way to second place behind his teammate Michael Annett. But as the race came to a close, Justin would find himself still in second place, his highest finish in all of his attempts at Daytona. While we were disappointed, a podium at Dayton is still an amazing accomplishment, and taking my dad to Daytona is another adventure I can check off the bucket list.  

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