Race fans: More diversity needed but still a good time

Filed under SPORTS

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

Each year, Daytona hosts two NASCAR race weekends at Daytona International Speedway.

The Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series, which is referred to as the Super Bowl of auto racing, is held in February while the Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race, which happens in July.

Fans clamor to photograph driver Jeff Gordon before the start of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7. (JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL/MCT)

NASCAR Jalapeño 250 Nationwide Series race and Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race took place this past week.

Tony Stewart won the Coke Zero 400 on July 7. Stewart took the lead on the last lap by passing Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth. He was at one time 42nd out of 43 cars.

Kyle Busch took the Jalapeño 250, which was highlighted by plenty of wrecks, including a 12-car pileup on July 6.

Excited fans
Fans from all over the world and even locals from all walks of life come to enjoy the races.

Ishmael Qawiy attended the Coke Zero 400 and enjoyed the race. Qawiy is originally from Daytona and is a Mainland High alumni. He now resides in Clinton, Md.

“I enjoyed it. It was exciting. I’m not really a fan, but I grew up around it. It was my second race that I attended as a spectator. I have also worked the races in the past. Races are a lot better seeing in person. We sat in the infield and it was different from sitting in the general admission grandstand. I loved the crashes and the last 10 laps were the most exciting,” responded Qawiy.

Still lacks Blacks
Qawiy, who is Black, believes the sport needs to do more to attract more Blacks to it at all levels.

Tony Stewart celebrates after winning the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway on July 7. (STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ORLANDO SENTINEL/MCT )

“There weren’t a whole lot of us in attendance. NASCAR has a history or image of being a good-old-boy sport. I think that Blacks are comfortable at the races. I think more needs to be done to get us interested. There are hardly any Black drivers,” said Qawiy.
Mike Micallef lives and works in Daytona. Micallef attends both races each year while rooting for his favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

He says NASCAR has attempted to diversify but more can be done.

“I think that NASCAR has definitely tried to diversify. At races you can see a very diverse fan base. Maybe more can possibly be done to advertise to other demographics to get them involved at all levels of the sport,” stated Micallef.

Plenty to see
Last weekend, Micallef took in more than the race.

“My friends and I had tower seats and got to see entire track. The stands were full. We did all pre-race activities, including the Fan Zone and the Garage. We saw the music group Train perform and put on a great show. We watched the entire race. It was a great race and everyone enjoyed themselves,” he said.

Difference in races
Although both the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 races and their surrounding weekends are enjoyable, there is a difference.

“There is definitely a difference between the two races. The Daytona 500 is the biggest of NASCAR races. It’s their Super Bowl and it starts off their season. There are more events going on like the Budweiser Shoot Out, Gatorade Duel, Truck race and etc.,” Micallef noted.

“There are also more fans in town for the 500 than the 400. The 500 is the race that every driver wants to win. If you win that, you go down in history.’’

Nevertheless, this month’s races were full of excitement for race fans.

Those who attended the races like the atmosphere provided at the venue.

“It’s sweet the hospitality is great. Everyone is first-class with what they try to serve you,’’ Micallef commented.

Added Qawiy, “There is definitely a lot to do other than watch the race with all the activities, entertainment and food. It’s a fun-filled family atmosphere provided at the races in Daytona.’’

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