While some fans are still counting down the days until they get to head out to Daytona International Speedway, several dozen already have rolled their recreational vehicles into their favorite parking spots, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
They started pulling in Feb. 1, the first day Geico Park West, a parking lot outside the track along Williamson Boulevard, opened for business. But most of them reserved their spots before last May. Many who arrived this week, mostly retirees, have been camping in the exact same location for years, or even decades.
“I like all the activity,” Dell Cook said of his spot near the entrance off Williamson. Cook has been coming to the same corner for 10 years. “All the haulers have to come by here to get in or out.”
Cook, of Bonita Springs, Fla., was happy to see his campsite dry this year. This time last year, it was under several inches of water. He’s camped at Daytona since 1964. He and his wife used to camp at several other race tracks as well, but now because of the economy and fuel prices, they’re limiting the camping to Atlanta Motor Speedway and Daytona.
For $575, or $525 if they register early, fans can camp outside Turns 1 and 2 from Feb. 1 to Feb. 21, the day after the Daytona 500. That price doesn’t include a view of the track or any race admissions, but it does give fans a convenient location on Speedway property.
The campsites are all roughly 20 feet by 40 feet.
“We take pride in our camping,” said Andrew Booth, Speedway spokesman. “We’ve won a Good Sam Welcome Mat award year after year for the most RV-friendly NASCAR event.”
The friendly atmosphere among campers is one of the things that Chris Eddy enjoys most about their three weeks of camping at the Speedway each year.
She and her husband, Bernie, camp across the road from Malcolm and Jackie Lowe of Arkansas. The couples struck up a friendship at the Speedway three years ago and now keep in touch all year long.
“Race fans are the nicest people,” Chris Eddy said.
As they set up their campsites this week, they know they can look forward to seeing other friends roll in any day. The Lowes have been camping at Speed Weeks for 33 years.
For Bernie Eddy, tanning in a lawn chair Friday, you can’t beat the weather. Back home in Michigan, 14 inches of snow fell this week.
“We never complain about the weather here,” his wife said.
However, her husband is ready if the temperature drops. Shortly after he arrived on Tuesday, Bernie Eddy had a truckload of firewood delivered from DeLand to burn in his small, portable fire pit. The wood was piled almost as high as his Chevy Trailblazer.
“It’s a month’s supply,” Eddy said. “We’ll use almost every stick.”
But besides visiting their neighbors and sitting around a campfire, what else do these campers do, with a week to go before the real action starts at the track?
They said they go to the beach, the Daytona Flea and Farmer’s Market, Blue Spring State Park and even as far south as the Dixie Crossroads restaurant in Titusville. And, Stan and Brenda Schupbach also take advantage of the racing action at the smaller local tracks, New Smyrna Speedway and the Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville.
But come the first day of racing at Daytona, the campers said they’ll be in the stands watching the races.
Chris Eddy said there’s nothing like “sitting in the stands and feeling that rumble under your feet.”