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DIS Infield At Night Can Be Bizarre

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 31 2010
Fatigue becomes a player as the Rolex 24 drags on. (Photo courtesy of the Grand-Am Series)

Fatigue becomes a player as the Rolex 24 drags on. (Photo courtesy of the Grand-Am Series)

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Walking through the pits and the paddock, or driving through the infield, the nighttime hours at the Rolex 24 can be little more than a loud blur.

The lights, the noise from the 40 or so cars on the nearby road circuit, the PA blaring music or garbled interviews. It’s all so mind-boggling.

It’s also a little surreal, especially when you glance across the track and see thousands of empty grandstand seats – the same seats that will be filled with NASCAR fans in two weeks for the Daytona 500.

But this is a much different event. Sports car fans want to get up close and personal with the cars and the drivers. That’s why the vast Daytona International Speedway infield is nearly suffocated by the ticket-buying public.

They’re everywhere. And many of them don’t seem to be paying much attention to the race.

Oh, they’re interested in cars all right. But it’s the ones that are standing still, on display behind the NASCAR garage, that draw throngs to ooh and aah.

Then you have the fans paying to bounce high into the night on bungie cords, and a playground for the dozens of youngsters who seem to actually relish all the noise and commotion.

There’s plenty of overpriced concessions, too – $8 Italian sausage for one. And then there’s the new Taste of the 24 eating event, and the fancy dinner in the Daytona Superstretch.

You’ve never really been in a traffic jam until you’ve been stopped behind hundreds of red tail lights winding through the narrow Daytona infield roads in the middle of the night.

Alongside the road, you see people partying hard, walking aimlessly or sound asleep on sleeping bags in the midst of the din. The smell of campfire smoke fills the air, along with the greasy smell of burgers and bratwurst frying on grills.

It’s a banquet for the ears, the nose and the eyes – if you can keep them open.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 31 2010
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