Since 2000, JHE has been the proud producer of the Daytona 500 opening ceremonies. Full of pomp and circumstance, the show always starts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season in style.
My most memorable Daytona was bittersweet – 2001 Speedweeks.
Just before driver introductions for the Duals, Dale Earnhardt Sr. asked me to take a seat beside him on pit wall. He wanted an update on our planned building construction. It was to be our first commercial building, and we were putting on land purchase from Dale Sr and Jeff Gordon. Dale was very interested in not only the building but how we were doing as a company. With only eight employees at that time, the fact that he cared about what we were doing was humbling.
The next day I dropped off a thank you note at his hauler. Sadly, we lost Dale Earnhardt two days later.
Fast forward to fall 2014, I received a package from Gil Martin, current crew chief for no. 3 at RCR. The note inside read, "I found this in my desk and thought you would like to have it back." It was the note I left for Dale Earnhardt in Daytona 2001. I had forgotten all about the note but will never forget our conversation that day. Many people have heartwarming stories about Dale Sr, and mine happened in Daytona.
As the race at Daytona International Speedway approaches, employees answered the question: “What is your favorite Daytona 500 memory?”
“Without a doubt, my favorite memory is the Thunderbird fly-by every year at the race.”
“Terry Hodges, Brandon Stegall, Jeremy Callahan and a few others pushing the previous year’s winning car down pit road after the command had been given. Jeremy kept popping the clutch in hopes of jump starting the dead race car. As we approached the last cut out (after 300 yards of pushing the car and it not starting), we heard a NASCAR official over the radio that we needed to either turn in and duck behind pit road or be prepared to push it all the way around the track. We chose pit road and pushed to the Nationwide garage where we all proceeded to try and catch our breath while laughing at how out of shape we were.”
“This will be my eighth Daytona 500. Race morning always has a different feel than any other race I’ve attended … it’s excitement for the new season combined with the biggest race of the year. It is also always one of the biggest pre-races of the year which is my favorite part.”
“After 10 years of working in racing and attending the Daytona 500 from the infield, I finally got a chance to be in the grandstands for the start of a race. When the cars came up to speed and blew by me as I stood at the catch fence (when you still could), the wind from the cars nearly knocked me down. Until that moment, I hadn’t fathomed the force or speed of race cars; it was the most amazing feeling!”
“The 2008 Daytona 500. It was the 50th anniversary and a really spectacular event.”