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Some Prefer Traditional Route To Success At DIS

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 9 2014

Jimmie Johnson signed autographs for fans Thursday at rainy Daytona International Speedway. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Driving into Daytona International Speedway for the 2014 version of preseason testing, there are visible signs of a major renovation of the facility. Well, sort of.

The cranes being used to remake the frontstretch seating area were mostly obscured by fog and low clouds for much of Thursday’s opening session as rainy weather kept the cars off the track for most of the day, but there’s no mistaking that a huge project is under way.

There also were signs of the old Daytona as well.

Speedway officials, for this week anyway, have rerouted traffic, so that it’s possible to enter the old Turn 4 tunnel directly off of International Speedway Boulevard instead of having to make a detour around by the road to the airport.

The old tunnel, in place since the beginning, is narrow and short, constructed decades ago using large sections of corrugated pipe.

There’s a newer, wider tunnel on the other side of the track, but traditionalists typically make their way in via the old tunnel.

“I always come in the old tunnel,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Ford driven by Trevor Bayne. “The only time I use the other when is when the Turn Four tunnel is closed. That’s the only time.”

Even Jimmie Johnson, a relative newcomer, seems to prefer the traditional route.

“There is no other sensation when you come into a race track like there is here,” he said. “Driving through the tunnel and popping out in Turn Four and looking around and realizing you’re here is always a great way to start the season.”

Wood said driving through the tunnel gives the same feeling as it did the first time he passed through back in 1962.

“You down as you go in the tunnel, and you can’t really see anything,” he said. “Then you start seeing only blue sky as you head back uphill. Then you pop out and there’s a big race track.”

Wood said his father, Glen Wood, often recalls how overwhelmed he and his peers were back in 1959 when they drove out of the tunnel for the first time.

“At that time it was the biggest race track they’d ever seen,” he said. “Before that the biggest track they’d raced on was Darlington.

“I’m sure they were as impressed by the bigness of it as we are today by the grandstand construction that’s going.”

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 9 2014
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