Daytona 500 is back, and for the first time in 2021, engines fired!
I just happened to be in town for the first day of Speed Week, driving down from Georgia to visit the legendary beach that tourists flock to year round.
This time, I actually got to visit the Speedway and attend the Busch Clash – my first NASCAR event.
I picked up a pair of tickets on Craigslist and didn’t know what to do with the second ticket, so I fortunate the manager at Buffalo Wild Wings found use for it.
The aging Daytona International Speedway got a 3-year, $400 million facelift last year, and she is now state-of-the-art and pristine.
Due to COVID, the number of tickets sold was restricted, and with social distancing rules, we were able to roam the stands, pick our seat and stretch our legs.
My bartender, Crystal, who is originally from the Panhandle was very nice and I enjoyed my conversations with her.
The winner of the clash actually did not have the lead at anytime during the 35-lap race. Ryan Blaney was actually in the lead. Chase Elliott was second and tried to take the lead. He made contact with Blaney sending him into the wall. While both cars collided, Busch, running third, easily slipped by. Ironically, Elliott and Blaney are good friends of the track, but on the track, they race each other hard.
“He didn’t mean to do that,” Blaney said, “but I ended up wrecked.”
“We’re friends,” Elliott said. “Friends can have tough conversations.”
Daytona is a very dangerous track – it’s high banking and long straightaways over 2.5 miles has led to numerous violent flips and grinding wall impacts over the last 62 years.
Busch, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, led only the final 300 feet of the race, his first victory since the Las Vegas Truck Race a year ago. Coincidentally, the event is sponsored by Busch Beer – no relation to the winner, Kyle Busch.
Speed, horsepower and thrill, the Clash did not disappoint.
When I returned to Buffalo Wild Wings after the event, I was shocked when the manager comped my wings. It was such a nice thing for her to do, and I hoped she enjoyed the race as much as I did.
Hopefully Speed Week events and the Daytona 500 this Valentine’s Day will bring over 100,000 fans to the city, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy.
With the renovations, there are less seats but more separation between seats.