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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Daytona 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500

Joie Chitwood III
February 26, 2012


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

LENNY SANTIAGO:  Right now we've been joined by Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway.  He'll make some comments.
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  Good evening.  A long day.  We attempted our best to try to get the track dry.  Seemed like every time we got close, another pocket of rain showed up.
We waited as long as we could in terms of the process, how long it might take to dry the track, and what was reasonable in terms of our fans staying and enjoying the event.
We reached a point where the last pocket of rain hit the track at about 5:10, 5:15 this evening and we lost the track and would have to start the drying process all over again.  Once that happened, we made the decision we would not be able to get the track dry to have an event tonight that would work.
So we have postponed the event till noon tomorrow.  I believe that's the first time we have postponed the event to run on Monday.
LENNY SANTIAGO:  We'll open it up for questions.

Q.  Obviously forces of nature conspired against you here.  Great deal of frustrating, dealing with the pothole incident in 2010, and now this.
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  For the record, I was not the president when the pothole existed.  Just for the record (smiling).
I feel we have an unbelievably good Speedweeks up to this point.  I felt there was great energy and momentum, great racing on track.  In terms of the staff here at Daytona, we do everything we do to build to this day.
Actually, I sat there during prerace on one of the stages looking around and still felt good about some of the things that we saw, the Lenny Kravitz concert, Pat Monahan singing the anthem, and the fly‑over was tremendous.  It's great to see all those elements.  And then not have a great race to accompany it, it is deflating.
We've got to suck it back up and make sure tomorrow we do a good job and give our fans what they expect, which is a great Daytona 500.

Q.  The forecast tomorrow is less than sunny.  How late can you start the race considering your traffic people and all that?  Additionally, is it your understanding in talking with NASCAR that you would run Tuesday if tomorrow is weathered out?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  It's tough to even talk Tuesday until we get into tomorrow.  I think the plan with a noon start, I think there is inclement weather in the a.m., but by noon, it looks like the weather is better.  We'll play it out best we can.
No different than what we did today.  We'll wait till the last possible minute that we would not run the race.  We want to exhaust every opportunity of getting the track dry and running the race.  I would anticipate 5:00, 6:00, if there was rain on the track, you will see us play out some decisions.  I don't even want to talk about Tuesday right now.

Q.  Obviously this is difficult to answer since it's never happened in the history of the Daytona 500.  What do you think the crowd will be like tomorrow for a Monday noon start?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  That's a great question.  We don't really know.  For us, we have to staff and be prepared that we're going to have a lot of folks show up.  The last thing I would want to do is be understaffed, have a lot of folks show up and we can't take care of them properly.  We have to be prepared most of them are going to show up.
Whether it's the buses that we use to get people here from lot 7 and lot 10, ushers, gates, ticket takers.  The last half hour I was meeting with my team to make sure what areas we're covered, and what support we might need to so that we're fully staffed to handle that crowd.  That's the key.  It's not how many show back up, it's that we can handle those that do and they have a good experience.

Q.  How does this impact, if at all, your preparations for Bike Week?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  It should not affect our preparations for Bike Week.  We would have prepared the dirt track or the Supercross track tomorrow.  We would have started some dirt in and things like that.  We can easily push that back a day or two.  We have plenty of time to be prepared.  There is next weekend that was going to be an off weekend that we can work that weekend to prepare the track, if needed.

Q.  Given this is the first time this has ever happened, what sort of reports have you gotten for ingress and egress from the track?  Did you have any problems with flooding?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  We've had no reports of any flooding or any issues like that.  We've been doing a good job I think getting traffic in and out today.  I will tell you, the improvements we made to the west camping lot worked well because there was no issue with standing water over there.
Obviously it's a challenge when people are leaving here and it makes the roads a little bit slower with the rain.  To be honest, that part seems to be working pretty normally.

Q.  Was there any discussion of just running it at night tomorrow?  Do you have any comment on what the financial impact of what a postponement will be?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  Based on trying to start at noon tomorrow, there's always a good chance we would be running at night depending on the weather.  I think we have to be careful if we were to try and set a later start time tomorrow.  And we had great weather in the afternoon, then inclement weather by the time we started, I think that would be a disservice to our fans.
However, FOX has a seat at that table, NASCAR, myself, we all had that conversation.  Ultimately we felt like noon tomorrow was the best time to get started.
From a financial impact perspective, you don't generate any more revenue on a rain day, all you're doing is eating up expenses.  I can't quantify a number other than the fact it's going to cost us more to run this event based on having another day of expenses with no revenue associated with it.

Q.  It looked like you had a big crowd this weekend.  It looked larger than it has for the last couple years.  Knowing that you had that many people here, assuming only half of them come back tomorrow, you have a lot of logistical issues with the roadway.  How are you going to work with the community since you have school tomorrow next door?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  Well, when you look at the community, its needs, we felt like 12:00 was the earliest we could run the race and not really affect the community from a rush hour perspective, from school starting.  A challenge for us is we no longer have the ability to use school buses.  We used them for transportation from Lot 7 and Lot 10.  We have to find more private coaches to use.  There are things we have to give back to the community that we cannot use tomorrow.
With felt like noon was the earliest we could start and be respectful of businesses and schools and other things in the community.  But I think we're also conscious if we waited much longer than noon, you run the risk of less time in the day to get the event in.
There was a balance.  To be honest, I mean, you'd say, Can we run at 9:00?  You want as many hours in the day as possible.  We knew 9:00 was unrealistic, so was 10:00, so was 11:00.  We felt noon was the best balance to give us what we need and hopefully not affect the community in a negative way.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about the jet dryers, how many you had at the track?  Did you have some on loan today?  Any idea how you're going to work that tomorrow?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  We have 10 jet driers here on property.  As part of the ISC, we share jet dryers.  We have some jet dryers with some of our sister tracks.  That gives us about 2,000 gallons of fuel in the dryers themselves.  We usually have 3500 gallons of fuel on property.  If we need to get more fuel, we can go to the airport which is literally a stone's throw away.
Unfortunately, the timing in terms of drying the track, rain coming back, never worked in our favor.

Q.  If there are fans that could not make it today, can they purchase tickets for tomorrow?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  We will still sell tickets for tomorrow.  Any customer that had a ticket valid for today, is allowed admission tomorrow.  But there will still be tickets available tomorrow if a fan chooses to attend.

Q.  You moved the date of the race a week away from President's Day, wasn't that sort of like a rain date of some sort without school?  What might this have to do with thinking about that?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  Well, at the end of the day, I'm sure I'm going to have some customers tell me about the date change and the challenges that we have with it.  But I think weather is unpredictable.  So we'll deal with it.  I don't anticipate this would force us to change the date in the future.
I think based on the NASCAR schedule, the TV schedule on whole, this was the right move for the industry.  We'll continue to work with the last weekend of February.
It's unfortunate that this had to happen the first year after we made that change.  I'm sure I'll be talking to a number of customers in the next weeks ahead about that situation.

Q.  What was the exact time the decision was rendered to postpone the race?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  I believe the last rain came down at about 5:10, between 5:10 and 5:15, I know it started raining.  Within three or four minutes of that last rainfall, we lost the track.  The minute we lost the track, then that forced us into the decision of the postponement.

Q.  It looked on the radar there was a window later tonight.  Any thought of starting even at like 10:00 at night?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  The Daytona 500 typically averages about 3 hours and 45 minutes.  So if you started the race at 10 p.m., that would put you at about a 1:45 a.m. finish.  Then you have to think about the couple hours it would take to send all our customers home.  I'm not really sure that's the environment we want to do that.
I can't tell you the exact latest start time that we would do it.  I have a feeling 10 p.m. is probably a little bit too late based on the logistical needs of our customers.  We tried to do it as best we could, wait it out as best we could.  Once we lost the track the last time, 5:15, if it's a three‑hour dry, maybe there was more weather coming, it was going to put us way too late to really get this thing going.

Q.  You'll stick with the traditional plan, no prerace activities of any kind tomorrow, driver introductions or anything like that?
JOIE CHITWOOD III:  No.  Tomorrow we will have an anthem, an invocation, we'll have a command to start engines, the waving of the green flag.  We don't expect any other prerace ceremonies.
LENNY SANTIAGO:  Thank you very much, everybody.



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