MONTE DUTTON – THE DAYTONA THAT WAS
When I think of Daytona Beach, it’s always February that comes to mind. July (which is no more) is just hot. The only image that remains vivid is the year of the wildfires and postponement and the smoke in the air that made me think it was a banana republic and the revolutionaries were on the outskirts of town.
It was always hot, though, in July. The ocean was cool and suitable for a swim after the races when they were in the daytime. Now the only nightlife is at the track.
February, though, is cool and windy, and the air seems moist whether it’s raining or not. February is two weeks instead of two days. Glittering yachts moored near the Chart House. Seagulls rising by the hundreds in the infield when engines are fired. Music and seafood in St. Augustine. Racing slot cars at the condo on a tiny track purchased at the Family Dollar.
Daytona International Speedway has a unique sound. Every track has that roar when the field zips by. Daytona has a vibratory hum while the cars roar through the turns in the distance. I can’t think of anything else it sounds like, not even Talladega. Watching the monitors in Benny Kahn or watching from high above in Houston Lawing.
What I miss most are the feelings, the senses and the rain out on the condo deck.
The most distinct image is of the day Dale Earnhardt died, which will be two decades next year, and undoubtedly I will write about it then.
For now, though, I reminisce about the long drive down and the long drive back. I never flew to Daytona Beach in February because the pickup was packed with the supplies of an extended visit. Golf clubs. Guitar. Crockpot. I used to make a big pot of Texas chili for the Thursday of the twins.
It’s funny how everything seemed more intimate when there were twice as many people there. Now there’s half the media, TV excluded, and half the access because the rest of it escaped to the TV guys. It may be a quarter now. It was half the last time I went, and it has been eight years.
NASCAR used to brag about the money. Now the money is more private than Trump’s taxes.
My guess is that there’s less reason to be there.
I still miss it, though.