Rolex 24 hours of Daytona

Daytona Beach

24 Hour Rolex Race

Jan 23- Jan 26, 2014

By Bob Naquin

 

Daytona Beach

January 23, 2014

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Rolex 24 hours at Daytona.

I had been suffering through the holiday season in my little community that I lovingly call Wrinkle Ranch. I had made big plans to spend the holiday season skiing up in the Sierras but I failed to consider that there might not be any snow available for that purpose. There was no snow for that purpose. And there will probably be no water for drinking purposes this summer. California is entering another dry year after just having one of the driest on record in 2013.

With no winter storms, the boredom of the holidays became somehow less tolerable. Every day would dawn very cold and clear and then shoot up to 65 degrees with no clouds in the skies and no wind. My normal outdoor activities had been curtailed by an arm injury that was keeping me from doing the things I liked. And there were precious few people to do anything with, as everyone was wrapped up in their holiday traditions. The only holiday tradition I have developed is the one where I travel during the holidays. Somehow doing nothing in Hawaii is better than doing nothing in Manteca, California.

I was happy to get an email from old friend John Wayne. John and his lovely wife Sharon spend the winter months on their big sail boat, the Warren Peace, in Mexico. Apparently they were tiring of basking in the Mexican sunshine so they were looking for a little side trip. John had the crazy idea that we all meet up in Daytona Beach and attend the races associated with the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona.

So the e-mails started flying and the plans started being made. John and Sharon had the hardest route since they had to get off of their boat in La Paz, make their way to San Carlos, Mexico to pick up a vehicle, drive to Tucson, fly to Texas, fly to Fort Meyers where they would meet up with Sharon’s brother Steve, pack up a motor coach, throw Steve’s wife Vicki on board and then drive the entire thing to the infield of the Daytona Raceway. I get weary just writing all of that.

For my part I just had to call my new again companion Barbie and tell her I wanted to go to Florida. Barbie and I dated a few years back, she moved into my neighborhood, and now we spend a bit of time together again. I feel it is very green in that we are recycling a relationship. We are trying to save the planet.

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Barbie.

In any case, Barbie is always ready to go somewhere, loves- I mean really loves, finding travel bargains, so I was all set. I just let her arrange everything.

We also had another couple joining from northern California, Bill and Nancy. Bill and Nancy and I had been unknowing neighbors in Granite Bay for 15 years before I had moved onto my boat. They made up the fourth couple of our crazy octet. We were all interested in auto racing and in getting out of the velvet ruts in which we had found ourselves.

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S.S Minnow

Without going into all of the details we all descended on Daytona Beach on Thursday January 23rd. And we all met at Red 21 RV parking spot in the infield of the race track. Steve and crew showed up with Steve’s gorgeous motor coach. After a few back and forths, a couple of beers and a mighty yell of ‘zoom zoom’ the mother ship was pronounced ready. The sides popped out, the chairs came out, the bbq was set up and we were ready to go. Well almost. Four grown men spent some fifteen minutes trying to get an ice chest out of the lower storage unit to no avail. It had gone in but was not coming out. About the time we were getting ready to surgically remove it, Bill, the only one not drinking at that point, suggested that we put the pop out sides back where they started when the cooler was loaded. Of course that worked but it did not raise the esteem of Bill, the brainiac, one iota. Hell, anyone can think straight when they have not been drinking.

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The Mother Ship.

So there we were right next to the track with all of these exotic cars making their melodious sound as they went by through the infield turns. We did the only thing any red blooded race fan would do- we went inside and watched TV. We could have watched TV outside but once the sun went down it got a little chilly. And in our defense we could see the lighted cars go around and around just as easily from inside the coach.

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Green car from another planet.

We went out and cooked some burgers and tried to solve whatever little problems we found with the coach and the acre of equipment that surrounded it. We had a good meal inside and then settled in for a Daytona Preview on TV. After that we started telling tales on each other. Through one means or another we had known each other for quite a while. We had had many adventures that got better in the telling of them because the facts had been lost to poor memories.

Then we called it a night. Barbie and I retired to our bargain hotel on the beach and Bill and Nancy went to their abode. While Barbie and I were staying at the cheapest hotel in Daytona Beach, we had the best view, in the most interesting location. It was right across the street from the “Bad Kitty” which at first I thought was an obedience school for wayward cats. As it turns out it was a porn store. And it was right next to a tattoo parlor that was as big as a Winn Dixie super market. Our view of the beach and the price of the room made up for it all.

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Red neck observation deck.

Daytona Beach

January 24, 2014

Friday dawned a cold and breezy morning with the temperatures in the mid 40’s and with no promise of the temperature getting much higher. Just what people come to Florida to enjoy. After a quick breakfast we made our way over to the track to take in another day of cars going round and round. We were so thankful that we had a beautiful motor coach to retreat to whenever we wanted to get warmed up a bit.

The highlight of the morning was a visit to pit road where we got to visit with the drivers and crews before they launched off into a two and one half hour race of Aston Martins, BMWs, Porches, Miatas, and a number of other makes. Barbie had to have her picture taken hanging on to every young and handsome race car driver. She even talked her way into the BMW pace car and got her picture taken in there. It turns out I am traveling with quite a slut. But she tolerates me, so what can I do.

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I, on the other hand, am not a slut.

After the race we retired to the coach and had drinks and told stories, the most notable being about Gizmo the fat dog. You can look forward to future stories about his many adventures.

I was elected to go outside and stand under the heat lamp and cook our dinner, which I did with a minimal amount of grumbling. We had ourselves a nice little feast and then we re-watched the race that we had seen that afternoon. This time we watched it on one of the several TV’s in the motor coach. We just can’t to seem to get enough of ‘zoom zoom’.

Daytona Beach

January, 25, 2014

We made our way back to the track and the mother ship on Saturday morning. This was the day that the 24 hour race was to start after two days of preliminary races. The weather had turned for the better and was Florida winter-warm.

We met up with the rest of our crew and then made our way to pit road where we could mingle a bit with the cars and drivers. Barbie went on a hard target search for Patrick Dempsey, who she calls Mr. McDreamey. Being a more meat and potatoes type of a person I had my picture taken with every piece of eye candy I could find, giving thanks to whoever had come up with breast implants and yoga pants.

At about 2 PM the race started with a field of 68 cars in four different classes. They all raced on the track at the same time but only raced against the others in their class. This type of racing makes for a lot of passing as the faster cars catch up with and pass the slower ones. This works well until it doesn’t.

It did not work well when the sun started to go down. A Daytona Prototype (fast) pulled out to pass a Daytona GS challenge (slow) and while looking into the low setting sun, ran into the back of a Ferrari that had lost power on the track while the DP car was going over a hundred miles an hour. It was a pretty scary crash and took almost an hour to clean up with both of the drivers involved going to the hospital. Memo Gidley was the driver of the DP car that got the worse of it. (The next day I ran into a crew member who told me that Memo had had a couple of surgeries and was alert.)

We eventually had enough of racing and escaped the race track to get a dinner off site. Then it was back to the track to watch the race and wait for the fire works display. Barbie and I decided to vacate the site for the night. We left and went on a search for the booze and food it would take to get the crew through the next day.

Daytona Beach

January 26, 2014

We got an earlier than usual start for what was the last day of racing at the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona. The weather had turned in our favor and it promised to be a clear day in the 70’s for the end of the race.

Barbie and I got our grocery list filled and packed all of the needed food items into my back pack so that I could schlump it into the race track. We arrived at the motor coach where we found the members of our group who had spent the night there looking a bit frazzled from not being able to sleep with the constant roar of the engines all night long. I had brought vodka to soothe their souls. Once we got them properly tranquilized we settled in to watch the rest of the race.

We did wander to the carnival section so that the brave-at-heart could ride the giant Ferris wheel they had in the infield.

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Big Ferris Wheel

I took some time out to take a group picture of my gang with one of the Patron girls but unfortunately something was wrong with the exposure setting and all I came out with was this:

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I don’t know how these things happen.

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Here is the picture someone else took: John, Bob, Steve, Babe-alicious and Bill.

At some point in the afternoon the race finally ended and the winners went on to celebrate. I am sure all of the participants were exhausted and were ready for a break. The infield folded up faster than a Wal Mart card table and the procession of car haulers started making its way out. Our ladies stood in the street and personally wished each one adieu. Every one was in a good mood so we had a lot of laughs with the drivers as they passed by.

We stopped long enough to cook ourselves some steaks and baked potatoes. We settled outside, since the evening was nice and we had TV outside of the coach. People wandered by and stopped to chat. The infield had been divided into two camps-those that were in a hurry to leave and those that were not. We were in the group that was not in a hurry so we visited with whoever came by and watched the exotic cars driving out of the infield.

Somehow the ladies made friends with a couple of tow truck operators. One came back after dinner to help us finish off our beer and key lime pie. We had left a vehicle outside the track so the guys thought we would go get it and moved it inside so it could be hooked onto the motor ship for its ride back to Coral Gables in the morning. As luck would have it, a light had been left on in the vehicle and the battery was dead. So we just went back and got our tow truck driver and had him jump start the car for us. Sometimes what goes around comes around. And sometimes that can happen pretty quickly.

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Our girls with a tow truck guy: Vicki, Barbie, Lucky Guy, Sharon Ann and Nancy.

After that little episode we said our good byes and we left for our hotel room. No doubt we had all had a racing experience like none other.

January 27, 2014

Barbie and I got a started on our last day in Daytona Beach. We had some time to kill before we headed back to our little homes in Manteca. We drove up to St. Augustine and poked around in the shops before heading back to the Orlando Airport to catch our mid- afternoon flight back to the left coast.

We did finally load onto an airplane and returned to our boring lives back in Wrinkle Ranch. Another great little adventure was in the books.

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