The Daytona Experience: Speedways Bid To Host XC State Finals
To maintain a lead over the field in their industry, the officials at the Daytona International Speedway are ever-mindful of changes in the mood of their audience. For example, they are fully aware that in 2012, and beyond, no topic is hotter than--excuse the pun--Global Warming. Day and night, their mental pistons have been working to come up with a solution to the question, “How do we fill the seats, while emitting zero carbon emissions?” The answer to that question may very well come at the conclusion of the next cross country season.
According to Corey Sobers of the FHSAA, three Florida locations have made bids as a possible site for the 2012 FHSAA Cross Country Championship. They are Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Windy Hill Farm in Gainesville, and the Daytona International Speedway. Yes, race fans, the birthplace of speed may soon be shifting gears and--burning Vibram rubber—to the sound of footsteps.
It seems quite logical that the Daytona International Speedway (DIS) would join forces with members of the Greater Daytona Chamber of Commerce (i.e. representative of hundreds of hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and miniature golf courses (all with a pirate theme) along the World’s Most Famous Beach) to offer a unique approach to running a cross country race: a 3.1 mile lap, in and around, the tri-oval of the DIS.
Now some of you might say, “Whoa; that track is made of asphalt, and a cross country race is on grass!” Up until now, courses have been run on natural surfaces, however, I could find nowhere in the rule book that it says they must be.
Other than that minor deviation from hundreds of years of cross country tradition, why not run the next FHSAA State Meet at the DIS? After all, stock car races have “adapted.” They began with the high-speed pursuit of moonshiners (the hare, if you will), by revenuers (the hounds), along otherwise deserted country roads. From there they went, ahem, south, to the beaches and A1A of Volusia County, until, on February 22, 1959, Bill France Sr. introduced the world to NASCAR and the Daytona 500 on the 2.5 mile (4.0 kilometer) banked track of the Daytona International Speedway.
On the positive side, Daytona is “the birthplace of speed,” right off of I-95, kinda sorta centrally located, and most importantly only 23 minutes from my house. There’s also lots of seating—167,785, not counting the infield—plus unlimited parking for cars, buses, campers, motor homes, ski boats (on Lake Lloyd), and planes (Daytona Airport is right next door). Hopefully, however, they won’t assess a $35 parking fee.
So what’s not to like about this scenario? Your team arrives a day early, and afterwards spends an extra night. In that span, except for a race that lasts about 15-20 minutes, you have a mini-vacation, which includes beach access (a good place for a morning run), unlimited recreational opportunity (including Destination Daytona, DIS track tours, Sunsplash Park, the Boardwalk, Daytona Lagoon, and the Ocean Walk, among others), and more places to eat than Disney. Tours to the historic Streamline Hotel, where it all began, can easily be arranged.
Of course, there are still some bugs to work out. For example, unless you sit in the nosebleed section—or can run as fast as the kids--the viewing is pretty much limited to the start and finish. Also, in an effort to prevent any one racer from gaining an edge, certain restrictions might be necessary. There will, undoubtedly, be questions of sole thickness, aerodynamic hair styling, and limits to car-bo loading.
But will sponsors buy into it? Current race uniforms--a singlet and shorts—offer little in the way of a surface area for corporate logos. Perhaps runners could wear overalls, which allow far more patches to be sewn on, thus providing interest for the crossover NASCAR crowd. Or the entries could tattoo their neck, arms and legs--lots of room for that—whether temporarily, or otherwise.
Endorsements, of course, would be a snap. Among other things, there’s athlete’s foot powder, antiperspirant--the commercials could be filmed in “pit” row— deodorant soap, and a special “something” that a sufferer could take in case of “the runs.”
But how many spectators are willing to pay money and sit through only one lap at a modest five-to-six minute pace? There would hardly be time to make a trip to The Bistro in Fanzone and purchase a $3 hot dog, or a $4 bottle of water!
Perhaps the marketing department of Daytona International Speedway could sweeten the experience with an area where souvenir semis could park, and could offer--not little metal cars with numbers on them, but--racing flats, t-shirts, sweats, and a bobble-head Andres. We could certainly count on the shoe and clothing companies to make an appearance, plus an Army of One, the Few the Proud, and The Global Force for Good.
So there you have it; environmentally friendly, zero emission racing. At any rate, it would be a lot of fun pretending to be a stock car, even if it is only for one day a year: “Runners, start your engines!”