Nascar: An Experience at the Daytona 500

Rosenberger+was+featured+in+an+article+from+the+Daytona+Beach+News-Journal.+%0APhoto+courtesy+of%3A+N-J%2FJim+Tiller
Rosenberger was featured in an article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal. 
Photo courtesy of: N-J/Jim Tiller

Rosenberger was featured in an article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Photo courtesy of: N-J/Jim Tiller

Rosenberger was featured in an article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Photo courtesy of: N-J/Jim Tiller

Justin Rosenberger, Reporter

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The 60th  Daytona 500 occurred in front of a sold-out crowd at Daytona International Speedway, and I was one of the lucky few able to be there on February 18.

I have been watching Nascar for 11 years now. In fact, February 18 marked 11 years since I watched my first Nascar race: the 2007 Daytona 500. I had the thrilling experience of meeting my favorite Nascar driver, Aric Almirola, and his owner and former Nascar driver Tony Stewart. I was right up at the front, and I was one of the happiest people there. I got chills just meeting my favorite driver, and his owner, who is one of the greatest Nascar drivers of all time. I did not get a chance for him to sign my hat, which was disappointing, but meeting him in person was the highlight of the whole trip. 

Then, I had the amazing experience of walking the Daytona International Speedway. Walking up the steep grade, I was amazed by the 18 degree bankings and infield grass. But I have to admit, it is a good workout for your legs. The weather was just perfect. It was sunny at 75 degrees. It was so much better than the snow Pennsylvania was getting.

The sold-out crowd at Daytona 500 was on its feet for the 60th running. Photo By Nascarking (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Then came race time. Former Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave them the command to start engines, and the green flag flew. A lot of favorites to win the race were taken out early. Kyle Busch cut a tire and went into the wall. He would fall behind several laps and finish 25th. Then on lap 101, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made an incredible save but ended up causing a huge wreck, taking out favorites like Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson. After that, everyone calmed down and played conservative for about 30-40 laps. Ryan Blaney was the dominate car, leading 118 of the 200 laps. Then with about 10 laps to go, everyone started to make their move. Almirola was running in the 10th position, so I was just pulling for him to get a top 10. Then a caution came out with 7 laps to go, which brought the rest of the field back together. On the restart with 5 laps to go,  Almirola moved up to fifth, then third, and then he was going for the lead. I was out of my seat jumping up and down. Just as he was about to take the lead another big crash occurred, taking out more favorites like Kurt Busch and defending champion Martin Truex Jr. Almirola restarted second. I was really hoping Austin Dillon would give him a big push to get out in front, and that’s exactly what he did. Almirola took the lead and began pulling away.

I was freaking out. It was getting cold at the track since the sun had set, but when he took the lead, I was out of my seat screaming, jumping up and down, and was as hot as a blown tire. I could care less if anyone thought I was crazy. I honestly thought he was going to win the Daytona 500.

The white flag flew, which meant one lap to go. Almirola was in front while Dillon and Denny Hamlin were trying to pass him. Dillon went high as Almirola slammed the door on him. They went into turn three, Dillon got right on his bumper, and Almirola went spinning and crashed into the wall. Dillon came around, took the checkered flag, and won the Daytona 500. At first I was pretty upset with the finish, but I thought it was really cool that the 3 car was back in victory lane at Daytona 500 twenty years after Dale Earnhardt Senior won it. Due to the amount of cars taken out of the race and drivers behind laps, Almirola ended up with an 11th place finish.

Aric Almirola finished 11th despite getting wrecked on the final lap. Photo by Sarah Stierch(Own work) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Like most sports, Nascar is a sport that is better experienced in person. Listening to the cars zoom by and witnessing the intense crashes are unforgettable. It is just a burst of energy, and it is especially wonderful if you actually get to meet your favorite driver. Nascar is a sport I love with a passion, and others should consider the sport because it has speed, adrenaline, and suspense, not to mention is one of the most popular sports in America alongside the NFL and MLB.

Nascar has become one of America’s favorite past times. By U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sean Mateo White [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Nascar: An Experience at the Daytona 500