Tuesday, January 27, 2009

18 Days and Counting...

It's only 18 days until the 51st running of the Daytona 500. Only 18 days until the start of what some people are calling the most pivotal year in NASCAR history. The economy has hurt the sport over the last three months. It seemed like things were going fine until the off-season started, then it was a free-for-all, which will (hopefully) come to an end with the Daytona 500 on February 15th.

Now, enough with the generalized thoughts about Daytona.

It's only 14 days until I leave for my second trip to the Great American Race. This time however... things are gonna be a little different. Let's get in our time machine, turn on the flux capacitor and rocket up to 88 miles an hour. Set the machine for 2005.

The 2005 Daytona 500 was my first. Left on a Wednesday, came back on a Monday. Had great seats in the Earnhardt Tower and watched Jeff Gordon win. That race was a time when things were very different for me. Back then, my biggest aspiration to do as little productive things as I could. Matter of fact the only thing I really wanted to do was announce high school football (for free at that time) and announce at the dirt track in Chester. 2005 was also the year that I decided that I hated college and didn't want to go anymore.

Alright... back in the time machine, back to 88 miles an hour, and back to the here and now.

It's 2009. I've realized that college is important and I'm getting the hell out in December. And I'm going back to the Daytona 500. But I'll be there on the other side of the track. The first time, my dad asked me if I wanted to get pit passes. I said no. I wanted to be in the infield because I was working. Well, in 14 days I'm leaving for Daytona to go work. It's at the point now where I haven't actually gotten it through my head that I'll be in victory lane at the end of the race on February 15th.

I'll talk about victory lane later, but for now this simply is a trip that I can't quite put into words at this point. I thought I had my "How did I get here" moment when I walked through the garage that first time at Pocono last June. I think the awesome will be turned up on that a little more when I make my way through the garage on Gatorade Duel day.

The Daytona 500 means so much to me, for no other reason than the fact that I grew up an Earnhardt fan. That race... it's just... All that there is. It's the World Series, Final Four, Super Bowl, and Masters all rolled into one. When the race is happening, it's almost a surreal type deal. You talk all winter long about the Daytona 500; who's gonna win, who's not gonna win, who's gonna win the championship. But then the race starts and you think it's not real. Like it's just any other event. Then when it's coming to an end you think my god, the Daytona 500's almost over.

I'm hoping that this isn't the last time I go to work at the Daytona 500. I know I have to make a good impression over the next three months and really work my butt off to get to where I want to be. Hanging on to the back of a billboard for four hours on a Sunday afternoon as the cars move past me at 190 miles an hour is the goal, obviously, but sitting in an air-conditioned truck pushing buttons at Pocono on a hot August afternoon isn't that bad.

I know this: carrying a tripod and batteries is where I want to be on this Sunday afternoon. Next year, hopefully, I'll be carrying a microphone.