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"Welcome to Daytona Beach"

Like the sign says ...

Daytonasign

We're near the end of a long day of traveling and writing and traveling some more, and we'll have our live Prep Talk chat in a little bit.

* * *

The trip began, as always, from the Buffalo airport, where, as always, there were some race fans boarding the plane. I fly to Orlando -- and it seems most fans do -- because of flexibility, availability, and price of flights. One family had dad in his NASCAR straw hat, mom in her Daytona leather jacket and Chevy 400 t-shirt and a daughter in an Budweiser Dale Earnhardt Jr. jacket. Another woman was kicking a NAPA team shirt.

* * *

Here's the first time where I tick people off back home: Getting off the plane the sun was so bright it hurt my eyes. And I was only wearing a thin sweater but it was very, very warm. I almost started crying tears of joy.  

I think I just got issued a technical for taunting.   

* * *  

If you've ever flown into Orlando and rented a car, you've very likely run into longggggg lines at the counter. Thanks to some creative bag-stacking on my roller bag, I perched my laptop atop the stack, and plugged in the broadband card.

I logged into the work computer and typed away at the story I was working on for Thursday's paper while travelers whined about the line (Duh, people. Everyone searches the Web for the best price, so everyone winds up in the same line! Be happy with your bargain and exercise some patience).  

* * *  

We'll be chatting live from our oceanfront hotel (hey, it's called Daytona Beach, they're all oceanfront) after winding our way down International Speedway Boulevard. We drove right past the huge Daytona International Speedway. Even empty, it's a pretty awesome sight. The sign in the photo above (sorry about the quality - it was while driving underneath) stretches across -- as the street signs say -- "Int'l Speedway Blvd." near the entrance to the track complex. 

It was actually the second time I had seen the track today -- on the flight to Orlando, you come in off the ocean and pass right over Daytona, and there's no missing the famed tri-oval.

* * *

Everywhere you look here there are "Welcome Race Fans" signs, from gas stations to fast food joins to the old-school designed Krispy Kreme. The local NAPA store had the same sentiment on their store sign, with a "Honk for 55" added to the end in honor of driver/pitch man (or is it the other way around?) Michael Waltrip.

* * *

A drive down South Atlantic Ave. passed the Silver Beach Inn, which had its sign reading "Welcome Jeremy Mayfield Racing." Mayfield is going it alone as a driver-owner this year, and while perhaps the Silver Beach is a nice joint, I have a feeling that the hotel is just like the hundreds on the beach (including this one): not exactly swanky. That would put it right in the budget of a struggling-to-make-the-field team. This is my third oceanfront hotel in Daytona, and they all seem to be veterans of many Spring Breaks.

* * *

There was also a huge miniature golf complex which featured, no kidding, a sign advertising "live gators."

So much to do, so little time.

* * *

I just saw on SPEED that defending truck race champion Todd Bodine had the top practice time this afternoon. Lockport native Mike Hillman Jr. returns as Bodine's crew chief this year; I'm hoping to try and track him down tomorrow.

I'm off to chat-land. More coming Thursday, including live blogging from the media center during the twin qualifying races. And check out my tackling of some NASCAR preseason questions in a story in Thursday's paper (written in two different states and over several others!).

---Keith McShea

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