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Daytona 500 – My Night in the Infield

“Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer.” 1 Samuel 14:6

My eyes were opened.  Now that I think about it, for a country boy on a limited budget I got to do some pretty cool things.  We got to visit my brother in New Jersey…hey, don’t laugh…at least it was away.  Then another brother lived in the Smoky Mountains and while his then wife wasn’t too fond of our family, it was still away.  And yet another brother lived out in Texas and that was always an adventure.  But the best of all was my oldest sister.  You see, she and her husband J.W. lived in Daytona Beach and best of all…they were pretty cool.  It was because they lived in Daytona Beach that I had my eyes opened one day…or night rather.

As I said I was a country boy even though I lived on the outskirts of a large city, Jacksonville, Florida.  My world had limited exposure, and given this was the sixties, that probably wasn’t a bad thing.  The most exciting thing going on in my world was my neighbor Dick Snyder who smoked cigars and drank beer…a lot.  Other than that, it seems our world was pretty tame.  And then it happened.  Somehow or another, my brother-in-law arranged for me and Daddy to go to the Daytona 500.  In case you don’t know this was and is a really big deal.  This race kicks off the NASCAR season and it was Katie-Bar-The-Door excitement.  And…there was a lot of sin going on.

You see, to save money, I think, we only had tickets to park in the infield.  That is the area inside the track.  I’m can’t remember exactly why, but we decided to go the night before and spend the night…camping if you will.  The only thing was the fact that we didn’t have a camper…all we had was our car.  So, we loaded up the trunk and drove down to the track and before you could say, “checkered flag,” we were parked right smack dab in the middle of sin city.

Now most people know that NASCAR is a family sport and I love the fact that it is a sport that loves America.  But I’m pretty sure that family description doesn’t include spending the night in the infield the night before the Daytona 500. As it got dark, all those thousands of people started milling around and as they milled, they drank a lot of beer.  In fact, it seemed that a whole lot of them reminded me of my neighbor Dick. And it also seemed that a lot of the “ladies” there were dressed for the sixties.  Now I only say that because I remember my Daddy saying something like, “Don’t look there” or “You stay right here.”

Well, sometime later, Daddy told me it was time to go to sleep so I crawled into the backseat, covered up and soon was fast asleep.  When I woke up the next morning, it was like a different world.  Besides a crop of beer cans, you would have never known that a big party had taken place there the night before.  We hung around a while and the race started and every once in a while we could see the cars going round and round the track. I believe we even climbed on top of the car…something Daddy probably wouldn’t allow back home.

Well, soon it was all over, and we spent the next couple of hours fighting the traffic getting back to my brother-in-law and sister’s house.  Soon, we were back on the road again heading back to Jacksonville.  Well, honestly, sin and all, my night in the infield at the Daytona 500 is one of my favorite memories.  Not because of the sin (Daddy did a good job of protecting me from that part) but because of the time with my Daddy and his willingness to share a great adventure with me. Even now it makes me smile.

Life is and can be full of great adventures.  Whether it is a trip to New Jersey, the Smoky Mountains, or the forever plains of Texas, we need to be sure and take the time and make the time to have adventures with those we love. One time in the Old Testament, a guy named Jonathan decided to risk a great adventure.  He said, “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer.” Now that’s an adventure.

My trip to the infield didn’t involve the most expensive ticket, and even now I’m not sure I would recommend it as a place to take the kids, but the excitement of sharing that race with my Daddy was incredible. So, as Stephen Curtis Chapman sings, “Go ahead and saddle up your horses….this is the great adventure.”  Oh, before you go, remember to ask the Dearest Daddy for a little advice. In fact, why not ask Him along.  You know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne