Some folks call it the “Rednecks’ High Holy Week,” but the folks in charge of things prefer to call it “the World Series of NASCAR Racing.” Most just call it “Speedweeks.”
Whatever you call it, the two weeks in February that culminate with the running of the annual Daytona 500 every February is the unofficial start of yet another season of automobile racing.
Held annually in February, the two weeks of speed, featuring three classes of NASCAR racing and one of ARCA, represent the last vestiges of winter by those of us who call the Midwest home.
I was a part of all that for more than two decades. Now, it’s been more than a decade since my wife and I made the day-long pilgrimage to Daytona Beach, Fla.
Even if you’re not one of those traveling to Florida at this time of year, you can still count on the fact that only about six weeks of winter will remain when the brightly-colored, million dollar-sponsored cars are put back in trailers and head back to their homes in the Carolinas.
And, you can also count on another thing: many of your friends, many of those with whom you do business, and many Iowans of all walks of life will be returning home early next week from annual pilgrimages to Daytona.
One time, in fact, an Iowa Party was held during those two weeks in February. Legendary driver Ramo Stott (the only Iowan to start the Daytona 500 from the pole position, a feat he accomplished in 1986) started the annual event for those from the Hawkeye State. The first so-called Iowa Party was held in the infield at Daytona International Speedway, hosted by none other than Stott himself. Later, while I was in the employ of Hawkeye Racing News we hosted the Iowa Party on the top floor of a hotel sitting next to the famous beach.
I’ll be the first to admit there are things about Daytona I miss at this time of year. Most of all, I like the relatively warm weather and the lack of snow for a few days. But I don’t miss many other things — the tripled cost of motel rooms, the higher-priced menus and the simple horde of like-minded people who jam both sidewalks and roadways and make it difficult to get up and down Highway A1A that runs adjacent to Daytona Beach.
If you’re an Iowan and you’re in Daytona Beach this time of year, you won’t have to drive or walk far before you cross paths with another Iowan. Believe me, you’ll know someone there. Being involved in the great sport of automobile racing, naturally, I’d run into even more folks from home.
Costs of taking in the Daytona 500 have risen drastically. In fact, it’s become so expensive that many Iowans who head to Florida skip Daytona all together. You can also get your racing “fix” by attending short tracks like Volusia County or East Bay (near Tampa) or, if you’d prefer some asphalt racing action, there’s always New Smyrna Beach, which runs races every night south of Daytona.
So, once again this year, I’ll watch as the racing unfolds on television. I’ll scoff at the dollars tossed away by Iowans who watch as much racing as possible and buy triple-priced souvenirs, many of which will be lost before reaching snowy Iowa.
And, secretly, I’ll wish that my wife and I were right there with them, driving up A1A, taking a dip in the ocean and sitting among friends watching cars race past at 200 miles per hour.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and Dallas County News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.