21st November – Today had been planned for quite a while. We both enjoy watching Formula one Grand Prix racing on TV and have been to one race together so know how exciting the atmosphere can be. Stephen also loves watching Indy car racing and had commented that we'd be driving right past Homestead Speedway where one of the season's races was held. I checked and we were going to miss the Indy race by several weeks but there was a NASCAR race on. Hmmnm, it's cars, they go fast, what's not to like? Especially for Stephen – he loves cars!
So, I asked him if he'd like to go and as he was rather keen, I booked tickets online. It was only $40 each and we had brilliant seats. Four rows back and right by the start/finish line. Neither of us knew much about NASCAR so I had a chat with a friend on The Dibb to get a few tips so we had an idea of what to expect there. We didn't know much about the drivers though
We got there early, just after 11am, and were impressed with the parking organisation. We went straight in and had a good look around. We bought a t-shirt for Stephen and a programme. We had to get a second programme to take home for a friend of his too. There were loads of different stands to buy souvenirs, food, drink etc. There was a stage with a live band on it. There were electric carts whizzing all over the place so you did have to watch your step and generally the place was buzzing.
We watched the qualifying for a while but it was baking hot up on the stands so we went down for something to eat and then took our purchases back to the car where we chilled for a while. The car park had transformed by this point. People had erected gazebos behind their cars. They were cooking on barbecues, either small ones on the back of their trucks or huge ones next to their tents. They had tables and chairs. It was like a mini city. And there were we sitting in our car with our coolbox of water, coffee and bags of chips and cookies. I think the hotel would have noticed if we'd tried to sneak out the furniture though.
When we went back up we had another wander round the various stands and then went and sat down ready for the start of the race at 4.30. It was cooler then and much more pleasant. We had a huge tower dead opposite us which was brand new and state of the art. It showed all sorts of information, and combined with the screen was enough to keep us up to date with what was happening given that we couldn't hear the commentary over the noise of the cars. They are very loud! Also, we could see most of the track, which is an oval, from where we were sitting so could follow any particularly good scraps.
We picked a couple of drivers that we liked the look of and followed them. We liked this guy, number 88, mainly because he had a nice distinctive car but also as he's sponsored by the same company as Danica in Indy racing. I think we jinxed him though as he did spend an awful lot of time in his pits, which was just opposite us. At one point he did a lovely series of spins all the way down the start/finish straight – again right in front of us. It was great having such a fantastic view of the pits. It was brilliant to watch them swarm over the wall, service the car and then push it on its way. It seemed much more frenetic than GP, which looks much calmer, until something goes wrong of course.
As I said, the race started at 4.30 so a while later we had one of South Florida's beautiful sunsets. Here you can see the view we had of the right half of the pit lane, with the straight in between, and the banking of one of the curves behind it. We'd see the cars go past us, round the banking that you can see there and just lose sight of them for a second or two behind the tower, then they'd come back into sight on the left banking and then come zooming down the straight again.
At about lap 120 we dived out to get another bite to eat but we could still hear it and see screens so we didn't miss much, then we went back in to see the finish, which was really exciting.
Then we strolled back to the car. Now at this point I was expecting the usual post-event crush and hours spent trying to get out of the car park. How wrong could I have been? People were still wandering about enjoying the atmosphere. No-one was rushing, there was no crush. We got to the car and drove out and the organisation was incredible. The police were there with cones and those glo-sticks to guide us out and within fifteen minutes of us walking away from the stands we were on the Turnpike.
So, all in all a very good day. The race was incredibly exciting even for someone who doesn't follow NASCAR. We were constantly jumping to our feet, craning to see what was happening when there was some scrapping going on and generally enjoying the race. It was well worth going and I'm really glad I found something to take Stephen to that he likes as he's always so good about taking me places that I want to go.
Right, I'd better get on with the packing as today we go home. No, not that home – Disney home. Beach Club Villas – here we come!