Friday, February 3, 2012

it's that time again

february 26. the 2012 edition of the daytona 500, the great american race. and i, for one, one of many, in fact, anxiously await this event every year at this time.

the daytona 500 is like no other race. well, passive race fans will say the july daytona race is pretty much the same, the two races at talladega. but none of those carries the tradition, the pomp, circumstance and excitement of the daytona 500.

then some will claim that the indianapolis 500 is far more exciting. well, no doubt it commands more attention. the daytona 500 is popular with a much smaller segment of the american public. it wasn't even mainstream til 1979. and still and yet, pretty much only nascar fans will tune in and watch flag to flag coverage.

well let me tell ya, if you're one of those that doesn't watch, you should. if you've ever enjoyed indy car racing, formula 1 racing, in fact, any kind of racing (even drag racing, jones) the daytona 500 will blow you away the first time you watch.

indy cars cruise around the brickyard at an average speed of 220 miles/hour. that's fast. but are those really cars? they more closely resemble airplanes without the big wing. the wheels are exposed, the cockpit has no lid, and for these and many other reasons the cars just can't race close. fast, yes. but with no fenders, if two of them brush sides? destruction.

nascar's daytona 500 is totally different. 43 cars racing 220 mph going into a turn with a front to back separation of . . . . . well, nothing. they bump. they touch. they even push. the aerodynamics of that much speed mean the two cars essentially hooked together in a "draft" will go faster than one car. so the trick is the car behind races barely touching the bumper of the car ahead. of course, therein lies the trick. barely. because if they touch too much, off center, or not just exactly right . . . bad results.

and these two cars, plus 20 or more other pairs, are racing attached to one another while off to the right side, or left side, or sometimes even both, another pair of cars is racing 3-4 inches away from their fenders. hopefully. frequently that 3-4 inches of open space disappears. that generally leads to a wreck. not always. but when it does, and if those cars are racing near the front of a 43 car field, the cars behind have to be able to stop, turn, veer, spin, or take some evasive action pretty darn quick. at 220 mph you cover a lot of ground in a very short time. and if they don't stop, turn, veer, spin, or take some evasive action, the end result is apt to be a pile up involving 20 cars. or more. it happens.

i've done a little stock car racing. not at 220 mph. not in a $200,000 specially constructed speedster. but even in my type of racing it was pretty stressful racing and rubbing. and while, to us, bumping and shoving wasn't likely to cause a big crash, it caused anger. which caused retaliation. which was likely to cause a big crash. it's sure gonna stimulate the flow of adrenaline. and excitement. and it's tons of fun.


but these guys at daytona?

go to youtube. search something like "daytona 500 finishes". watch a few. specifically the 79 race. then tune in on february 26. allow yourself at least 45 minutes to watch the thrill of the speed, the danger of the closeness, and the beauty of the pageantry. unless you're weak of heart, or just not a sporting fan, you're gonna enjoy.

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