Sunday, February 26, 2012

Daytona 500 fans: Should I Stay or Should I go?

These Arizona fans enjoyed the week but will miss the rain-delayed Daytona 500
Photo Rosalie Thompson/Skirts and Scuffs
As rain eased up Sunday night in Daytona Beach, race fans had a decision to make—should they head home early on Monday morning or plan to stay in Daytona and take a chance that the weather will clear and the Daytona 500 would get the green flag a day late.

At 7:40 p.m., this ticket holder received an automated call from Daytona International Speedway saying the parking lots would open at 5 a.m. and the race was scheduled for noon and Sunday’s tickets would be honored.
For every fan that remained in Daytona, a different scenario played out.  Some had to work Monday, some had no place to stay Sunday night and some were content to wait as long as it took to see The Great American race.

Pam and Craig Eisenberg had flown from Phoenix to celebrate Craig’s 60th birthday and the 500 tickets were a surprise gift from Pam to Craig.  The couple, standing under the bleachers during the rain delay, had enjoyed their time at Daytona Beach but an early flight Monday would mean Craig would miss his chance to see Tony Stewart run the Daytona 500. 
A group of soldiers who had enjoyed getting together and camping for a few days decided to wait until Monday morning to see how the weather forecast sounded.  They had pulled a camper so lodging was not a problem and they had not planned to leave until Monday anyway.

Several groups of fans who come to both Daytona races each year and meet up at the bar at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is within walking distance of their campers and the track, were also fine with staying until the green flag flies.
But many NASCAR fans exiting the track said they have to work Monday or have to travel then and work Tuesday and were resigned to the fact that if the race runs Monday, it will be without them at the track or in front of their TV sets.

If the race is a go on Monday, Daytona International Speedway will be prepared. Joie Chitwood III, president of the Speedway was asked what he thought the crowd will be like for a Monday noon start since it's never happened in the history of the Daytona 500.
“That's a great question,” Chitwood said. “We don't really know. For us, we have to staff and be prepared that we're going to have a lot of folks show up. The last thing I would want to do is be understaffed, have a lot of folks show up and we can't take care of them properly. We have to be prepared most of them are going to show up.

Whether it's the buses that we use to get people here from lot 7 and lot 10, ushers, gates, ticket takers. The last half hour I was meeting with my team to make sure what areas we're covered, and what support we might need to so that we're fully staffed to handle that crowd. That's the key. It's not how many show back up, it's that we can handle those that do and they have a good experience.”

Since race teams have to prepare for travel to Phoenix, the delay will be difficult for the smaller teams with limited staff.

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