Thanks to a rare break from the drudgery of winter weather, the Seventh Annual Daytona 500 party at the Iowa Speedway’s Newton Club was a success for excitement-starved race fans. The Great American Race brought out an estimated “400 to 500” race-crazy guests.
With door and raffle prizes aplenty, appearances by the Miller Light Girls and food from Ovation Food Services, fans had plenty besides the race to keep them happy. Although the atmosphere amongst the revelers was all fun and games, Iowa Speedway President Stan Clement paused in the jubilation to reflect on the tragedy that took place in Saturday’s Nationwide race at Daytona.
“I think the turnout is great, and our people do such a good job,” Clement said. “It’s a tradition and you always expect a great crowd here. It’s fun to walk in and see something like that. Of course the thing that is on everybody’s mind is the people that were involved in the vicious wreck at Daytona [Saturday]. That’s the most important thing — that that goes well. From what we’re hearing, it seems to be going as good as it can, although we don’t have reports from the people over there in the hospital. That Nationwide race is the main topic throughout the country.”
Clement and his wife, Brenda, had just flown in from Daytona and joined the party just before the green flag was waived. Craig Armstrong, director of communications at Iowa Speedway, was thrilled by the turnout.
“It’s a great turnout of racing fans to kick off the racing season in fine style right here in the Newton Club,” Armstrong said. “We’re delighted to see so many of our season ticket holders out here, folks that are really into stock car racing, NASCAR style, were all watching the Great American Race and having a great time. Everybody is getting all amped up and excited for the racing season to get started here at Iowa Speedway.”
The 10,000-square-foot Newton Club had about 20 high-definition TVs showcasing the race, plenty of liquid refreshments and an assortment of quality tailgating goodies, such as brats, chili dogs, wings, nachos and both pulled pork and turkey sandwiches.
The Dixon brothers seemed to be enjoying themselves. Ray Dixon invited his brother Larry, to attend this year’s festivities for the first time.
“Oh my brother invited me,” Larry said. “I’ve been to the racetrack before, but not to the party. So far it’s pretty cool. (Hoping to) see Dannica get knocked out.”
Ray was the more experienced of the brothers when it comes to the speedway’s Daytona 500 party. He was attending his second.
“I love it here,” Ray said. “This is my second year (at the party). The weather, we might get to see the race this year. (The 2012 race was delayed a day due to rain) I’m looking forward to Carl Edwards winning the race.”
Perhaps the luckiest person in the party was Curt Corwin. Corwin won prizes on three separate occasions before the race was even a third of the way completed.
“Good, it’s always good when you win,” Corwin said. “I guess it’s just luck of the draw. This will be our fourth year in a row (coming to the party). One year I won four T-shirts; that was the second year we were here. Last year none of us won, but usually you win. It’s a good time to come down here.”
When the nine-car crash happened on Lap 33, fans all got excited. There was a mix of cheers and boos and Armstrong, who mc’d the event, even poked fun at Juan Pablo Montoya for also wiping out and referenced last year’s infamous jet engine incident.
Guys weren’t the only NASCAR fans in attendance. The crowd seemed to have just as many female fans in attendance and a couple of women shared their thoughts on why they came out to have a good time.
“I’m a race fan,” Tonya Brady said. “I’ve come to four or five parties here. I’m a season ticket holder and it’s a good party.”
The party just seemed to whet the appetite of Iowa race fans.
“I just love coming out to the Daytona party and waiting for the races to start, Nancy Douglas said. “I’m a season-ticket holder and have been one since the track opened. I can’t wait for them to start here (at Iowa Speedway.)”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.