Black families have rewarding time at Rolex 24 at Daytona
BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Action, entertainment and family fun describe the Rolex 24 at Daytona races held last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
“There were flames shooting out on the sides!” nine-year-old Nathan Douglass exclaimed as he gave a play-by-play of a crash at the annual race between drivers Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli. “Number 62 started slowing down and then the 99 tried to slow down, but he couldn’t and he bumped into the first car.”
According to reports, Malucelli had pulled to the left of the track and radioed his team complaining of a loss of power. Gidley, who was driving into the sun, didn’t see Malucelli’s stalled car and ran into the back of him at top speed.
Gidley, in his Corvette prototype, suffered back injuries when his car struck the rear of Malucelli’s Ferrari 458; both were sent to nearby Halifax Medical Center. Gidley remains in the hospital.
“It was fire everywhere,” Nathan added.
Drawing more Black males
Nathan is among a growing demographic in the racing world. Minorities. Specifically Blacks and especially young Black males.
“Early in the last decade NASCAR made a commitment to broadening the appeal of our sport by recruiting and developing dynamic new talent on the racetrack and throughout our sport. As a result, we are enhancing the fan experience for NASCAR fans everywhere,” Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development, said in a release.
“As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, NASCAR is committed to making the sport both on and off the racetrack look more like America,” an excerpt from the NASCAR Division of Diversity website claims.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is a 24-hour sports car endurance race held annually at Daytona International Speedway on a 3.56-mile (5.73 km) combined road course, using parts of the NASCAR tri-oval and an infield road course.
Since its inception, it has been held the last weekend of January or first weekend of February, part of Speedweeks, and it is the first major automobile race of the year in the United States. This year’s winner was Joa Barbosa driving the No. 5 Corvette.
Earned race tickets
Malica Martin and son Illyjah Nicol also were at the Rolex 24 and says that the event is fun for the whole family.
“I work for ISC (International Speedway Corporation) and it’s not his first time because we always get tickets, but it is my first time. It’s family fun,” said Martin.
“Jeff Gordon is my favorite driver,” remarked Illyjah.
“I think more kids should go to races and I’m glad my school gives race tickets for reading books,” the Champion Elementary student added.
Martin explained that as students read a certain amount of books, which is tracked, they receive race tickets to attend the (Daytona) 500 and other races.
“He reads about NASCAR everyday,” Martin shared. “They get the race tickets for general admission and it’s really nice for them to be rewarded for reading, they don’t haves to pay anything.”
Adam Flowers, a young Bahamian now living in Daytona, says that he’s never seen or heard cars as loud as those at the race as he spoke with the Daytona Times beside the track. “It’s a pretty awesome experience, and I’d do it again next year for sure,” he yelled.
He says he probably won’t go to the Daytona 500 as he likes the type of cars participating in the Rolex 24. “I was in the pits earlier, so I think you get the best experience there.”
West Palm residents Frankie Douglass and wife Janice, the parents of 9-year-old Nathan say they attend races regularly, at least five times a year and offers a little advice to those who may like to add auto-racing to the types of sports they enjoy watching, attending or even taking part in.
“Do a little research and be prepared for the race,” Frankie offered. “Move around and check everything out.”
Nathan emphasized the world “Everything.’’ He added, “I’ve been going to races since I was 3 years old!”