DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Hello from Daytona International Speedway we'll be blogging some blurbs here and there this morning before we do a live blog during today's Daytona 500.
9:02 a.m. We arrive at the infield media center. Bad news: We had to use our windshield wipers on the way here. There's a light but steady drizzle going on and ponchos are sure to be quick sellers this morning as fans begin to make their way around the grounds.
I think we'll be fine -- there have been a few overcast days this week that have turned Florida-rific later in the day. After all, the green flag for today's race doesn't fly until 3:30 p.m. It's always good to get to the track for auto races early, especially when there are 150,000 or so people heading to the same place. We may take a nap later on.
9:21 a.m. Correction and confession time. In today's paper, I apparently got too excited about my prediction that Jeff Gordon will win today in our new scouting report feature. That's because I called Gordon a four-time winner in my story previewing today's race. He's got three. And unfortunately, too much work last night -- and too early of a wake-up today -- kept me in last night and I couldn't check out the version of Santora's South like I did last year.
9:50 a.m. On the way back from my annual Sunday morning souvenir stop (disappointing stuff in there, so don't get your hopes up, my people), I snapped a picture of the grandstand under overcast -- but not rainy -- skies. I'm no meteorologist (but then again, some weather forecasters aren't) but I think we should be fine come race time.
Can you find the rain poncho in this picture? I'll take one later for some compare-and-contrast action. There will be a few more people and hopefully more than a little more sunshine.
11:34 a.m. There are a LOT of people in the media center, including a ton of photographers, awaiting a press conference with Aussie country rocker dude Keith Urban which is supposed to be starting any minute. I'm guessing wife Nicole Kidman might be accompanying him because it seems like there are more photographers here than in past years. Or maybe that's wishful thinking by a sportswriter/big fan. She was killer in "To Die For."
I'm not a super-fan, but I'm down with the Keith Urban. He did a nice couple of songs, but I'm not such a fan that I can actually tell you what they were.
Urban did confirm that Nicole was here during a very genial press conference in which he greeted each questioner by name.
Which brings us to the best moment of the press conference, when a reporter asked him: "What is your favorite racing movie?"
A quality baited question relating to "Days of Thunder," in which Kidman starred and met future husband-and-now-ex-husband Tom Cruise, who is also here today to drive the pace car.
Urban's answer: " 'Cars.' That's a good one."
12:27 p.m. I found out the titles of the two songs -- he did a cover of Sister Golden Hair and ended with Sweet Thing.
Full disclosure: I found them on the Orlando Sentinel's blog, which even has audio of the performance. Nice job by them. Some day I'll be able to get my audio on in blog-land.
1:44 p.m. Just returned from today's driver's meeting, which is held in a large room in the infield media complex, which is just off the garage area.
The meeting was packed as people were not only to see the drivers but celebrities, including ...
Tom Cruise (pace car driver), Keith Urban (prerace show), Gavin DeGraw (National Anthem), Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (grand marshal) -- he of the shocking white hair, which is just as shocking in person.
Also in the meeting were: University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (who may have gotten the biggest roar from those assembled), Gene Hackman (almost as much applause), University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, new New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Joey Galloway.
Cruise has something in common with some great race car drivers -- he's not the tallest dude in the world. He was very Top Gun-looking with a leather jacket and big shades. Here's a mega-lame picture (hey, it's my phone) of the megastar, who I have great newfound respect for after seeing Tropic Thunder.
He's the profile-angled blurry guy on the left who is looking to the right. Gov. Crist is the first blurry guy (with the blurry white hair) on the left.
On the way out of the meeting, I found out what it's like to be a NASCAR star -- the path from the meeting to the garage was roped off as fans and photographers were lined up to get shots of the drivers. Jeff Gordon was right ahead of me.
Here's yet another lame phone-photo exiting the meeting.
Recognize anyone, NASCAR fans?
I allowed a man in a wide straw hat in front of me walking out -- yup,
that's Jack Roush. At right-center, check out the yellow baseball cap. That's Kevin Harvick in a shade of
2:55 p.m. I was just outside and there's no rain falling although it is still overcast. I'll snap that picture in a few minutes.
3:26 p.m. Still grey skies but still no rain. Booyah.
Here's the picture from the same angle as much earlier, with, as promised, a few more people in it.
3:29 p.m. Crist just said "Gentlemen, start your engines," so it's time to go to another blog.
Check out my live blog during the race as I keep my notes as the action unfolds.