My 1st Daytona 500 – 1996 Edition

The 60th Running of the Daytona 500 will be run this Sunday, February 18, 2018. I remember attending my first Daytona 500 in person in February 1996, which also happened to fall on February 18. It all started with a phone call from a friend, who was looking for tickets to the 1996 Daytona 500. He knew I had attended “The Firecracker 400” in July at Daytona since 1985 and wondered if I knew anyone who had tickets for sale for him and a friend. I told him I would start looking.

My wife asked if I wanted to go if we could find any tickets. My answer was a resounding YES !!!!!! How we found the tickets is a long and interesting story which I may tell in a follow up article. We ended up sitting with a group of around forty people from South Carolina. My two friends ended up with tickets on the back stretch.

We arrived in Daytona on the Wednesday before the Daytona 500. Some of the people we were sitting with at the race were staying in the same motel that my wife and I were staying in. My two friends were staying only a block away from our motel. We ended up attending every preliminary race leading up to the Daytona 500.

Race day was cool that year with a high of 63 degrees. Back then, the Daytona mass transit buses called VOLTRAN, picked up passengers bound for the race track, across the street from our motel. I think the round trip tickets were only $ 5.00 per person. The bus was packed, but we didn’t mind because were going to the see DAYTONA 500.

The bus dropped us off and picked us up after the race in an empty field just off of turn four. We could see the Oldfield grandstand located just off of turn four which is where we were going to watch the race. We got off the bus and made the short walk to the grandstand where we met the people we would be sitting with for the race.

The 1996 Daytona 500 was won by 1993 ‘500 champion Dale Jarrett. He was closely followed by Dale Earnhardt who could keep up but could not pass him. Ken Schrader finished third and is the only one of the three still racing.

Ironically, Earnhardt would earn his only pole position for the Daytona 500 that year. That gave his legions of fans hope that he would finally win his first Daytona 500. Unfortunately, he would have to wait two more years for that elusive first win to take place.

After the race we returned to our bus and the bus had us back to our motel in less than an hour. That evening my wife and I would go to the motel restaurant for a post race meal. We each had two lobster tails for under $ 15.00. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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