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What It is Wish to Race within the Daytona 500

A sold-out grandstand filled with greater than 100,000 individuals erupts in a loud roar, drowning out the Nationwide Anthem. That is meant to be The Nice American Race, greater, brighter, louder than anything. An incoming rumble and the bottom shakes as six fighter jets streak into view. The cheers are drowned out by the jets, flying so low you swear they may hit the tops of individuals’s heads. However I can’t get caught up in any patriotism, standing subsequent to my pink, white and blue Toyota Camry race automobile. Too many nerves are pulsating by my physique, as a result of I’m about to compete within the 2019 Daytona 500.Earlier than and after. Nicely, extra like earlier than and through. These vehicles get THRASHED.Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyI’ve been racing in NASCAR for years now, however doing this was removed from assured this time.Earlier than you’ll be able to race, first you could qualify. The Daytona 500 has a novel type of qualifying the weekend earlier than the 500. We do a single lap by ourselves, the place the quickest two vehicles are locked onto the entrance row. Then it’s on to a set of races referred to as “The Duels” that the place the sphere is break up into two races. Everybody races to determine the place they begin.Aside from my group. We had been one among 4 vehicles that weren’t locked into the race and needed to race our method in. My nervousness meter was pegged at full. The Daytona 500, for smaller groups like mine, is so profitable that it will probably make or break a group financially. Lifeless final nonetheless pays roughly 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 {dollars}, which is about 4 occasions greater than ending final every other race all season. End 20th and also you’re a payday nearer to 4 hundred thousand. To place that in perspective, there’s a Monster Power Cup race on the schedule that solely pays roughly 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 to win.We needed to beat two particular vehicles in our race to have the ability to make the Daytona 500. Which made Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the longest days in human historical past. One of many drivers we needed to beat occurred to be my greatest good friend within the area: Ryan Truex. This was extremely awkward. So we created a social media feud as a joke, which turned fairly critical after which went again to humorous once more.As soon as we lastly acquired to racing Thursday night time, it got here right down to the final two laps, I bobbed and weaved my automobile to maintain Tyler Reddick and Ryan Truex behind me and simply beat them on the end line to get into the Daytona 500. My group radio as we crossed the road was a cocktail of jubilation, reduction, and excited screams.The StartMost group radios can have some type of inspiration mentioned on the tempo laps of races. However earlier than the Daytona 500, it’s a requirement. “We will win this!”, my crew chief radio’d over.Run little 96, run!Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyOn this picturesque sunny day, I’m beginning 25th, also called mid-pack. It’s a nerve-wracking place to begin in superspeedway racing, spend an excessive amount of time there and also you’re simply asking to be wrecked.Up by the gears and by the point we head into Flip 3, we’re at full velocity round 200 miles per hour, the place the wind and exhaust pipes struggle inside your eardrums for dominance. I’m on the underside line, and it’s two by two from first all the way in which to the vehicles in 30th.It’s about 85 levels out, which suggests the monitor is sizzling and slick. You’ll be able to visually see this because the floor of the monitor has an oily shine to it as we undergo the corners.As we come to finish lap three, the shortage of grip is clearly evident. I’m following Ryan Newman and its apparent his automobile shouldn’t be dealing with nicely as a result of its tail is wagging like an excited golden retriever. We’re lifting off full throttle within the corners and having to steadiness the vehicles in a pack inches aside. It’s terrifying and exhilarating abruptly.Have a look at how low these Cup vehicles had been this 12 months. Unreal.Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyA couple laps in I determine to maneuver to the highest lane. Simpler mentioned than executed, as nobody desires to allow you to into the highest lane. Finally, I discover a gap in entrance of… Kyle Busch, the place I uncover my automobile could be very unfastened. (Each type of racing has a distinct phrase for it. It means the again finish desires to spin off previous the entrance).First, an excellent fast massive-turn-of-the-wheel to the correct within the middle of Turns Three and 4, and my coronary heart is pounding out of my chest. Thoughts you, I even have the fashionable day Intimidator on my tail. Should you had been questioning who’s the worst to have behind you at a time the place your automobile is dealing with poorly, it’s Busch or Kevin Harvick. They’re the 2 drivers who you already know after they sense even the slightest weak spot, will use it to their benefit. Then off Flip Four I’ve a very sideways I-am-going-to-wreck-the-entire-field-moment. I maintain sawing the wheel backwards and forwards earlier than the automobile lastly comes again straight. Which is the exact time I got here on the radio to say we’re super-super-super (3 times makes my crew chief understand it’s unhealthy) unfastened and I’m heading to the again of the pack.Initially, I feel that was nearly the dumbest factor I’ve ever executed. However a couple of lap later I believed, I hope the TV cameras caught that as a result of I guess it appeared badass! Us racers are a dramatic type when you didn’t already understand that.PittingOne factor that occurs within the Daytona 500 is inexperienced flag pit stops. This entails teams of vehicles possibly 20 or extra at a time all attempting to drag off the monitor in unison with the benefit and charm of a pack of elephants falling down a hillside. All of those vehicles are over 3,300 kilos and have tiny little tremendous speedway brakes. These assist them go quick on the monitor, however they’re nearly ineffective within the slowing down division. However you could get on the brakes as late as attainable to bleed off about 150 mph simply to decelerate to the pit restrict’s 55 mph. That’s in a really quick stretch of street.My first inexperienced flap cease is on lap 15 and it’s in a gaggle of vehicles. As all of us leap to the apron of the monitor off Flip 4, drivers are locking tires and wrestling their vehicles—it’s chaos.Afterward within the race, a pair vehicles wrecked getting onto pit street, together with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who would get his left facet torn off by a automobile out-of-control sliding into the pit lane.DraftingSee, the wild factor in regards to the Daytona 500 is it’s a continuing wrestle between desirous to beat your opponents, but additionally realizing it’s essential to work with them to remain within the draft. It’s a steadiness nobody will get proper each time as a result of it goes in opposition to your pure instincts as a race automobile driver.So what occurs when it goes flawed? Nicely, many occasions it entails a crash, however for us, it went flawed after we missed the possibility to pit with our draft pack. We had misplaced the draft. That means I used to be on their own on my portion of the monitor. That is devastating as a result of you’ll be going method slower and also you’re now on the mercy of warning popping out to avoid wasting you. Or hopefully, there’s a gaggle of vehicles behind you that you’ll attempt to be part of.Notice the 27 automobile.Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyThere was. My spotter let me know there’s a pack of six vehicles behind us. If we play our playing cards proper, we are able to latch onto this pack and never go a lap right down to the leaders.Now, that is the place it will get extremely tough. They’re going a pair seconds a lap sooner than me, which suggests possibly a 10 mph distinction in velocity and they’re in a decent line. So it’s essential to discover a technique to slot in. Think about attempting to leap into the break in two practice vehicles because it passes by you at excessive velocity. (Don’t do that at dwelling, children, or ever.) That’s what we are attempting to do, simply with vehicles and at 200 mph.The pack of six will get to me and a break within the line varieties behind me. My spotter says “after this 40 automobile there are three automobile lengths to the final automobile in line, the 27.” In order I hear this and see the hole in my mirror my spotter says “fast clear, fast clear.” I transfer up.At the moment the motive force of the 27 automobile says what I can solely think about was “heelllllll noooo” and jukes to the left not desirous to need to carry off and assist me be part of their draft line. As he does this, he loses management of his automobile and spins proper in the direction of the surface wall. He catches my left-rear quarter panel and all of a sudden I’m backward heading into Flip 1. Someway by spinning the wheel and stabbing the brake quite a bit, I get the automobile straight and going ahead. All of this occurs because the lead pack of vehicles enters Flip 1 and nearly runs us over.That’s, uh, very extremely engineered Velocity Tape. Don’t fear about it. Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyMany expletives and that guy-can’t-drive-a- hot-nail-into-a-snowbank could have been mentioned. I used to be not proud of the 27 automobile and let him understand it. With hand gestures. Very informative hand gestures. This all had broken our hood, so we needed to pull in and tape it down.We went a lap down on this fiasco.Harm ControlAt this level within the Daytona 500, we’re within the dwelling stretch. For us, we’re enjoying harm management.We can not affirm if Parker was eyeing the infield for good ingesting spots whereas this photograph was being taken.Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyUnfortunately, this incident harm our velocity. After the restart, it turns into obvious it’ll be exhausting for us to stick with the pack. After some time, we lose the draft. Finally, we pit and over the course of the run, we discover ourselves alone once more attempting to outrun the pack.As they get nearer and nearer. We hope and praying for a yellow flag to no avail. Quickly it’s all however sure a great 25 or extra vehicles all side-by-side if not three-wide are going to attempt to go round me. It’s very like a class 5 hurricane heading towards a small rudderless sailboat. You’re feeling helpless, ashamed, terrified they aren’t going to have the ability to get round you and all of a sudden the Twitter movies will all be “Parker Kligerman wrecks complete Daytona 500 area as they LAP HIM.”Tape getting pulled again, smoke pouring off the brakes, the automobile trying prefer it has a foot within the junkyard. Have to be the Daytona 500.Picture: Daylon Barr Images“Keep low, Keep low” my spotter says. Because the pack goes by the air pushes and pulls the automobile left and proper violently. However within the matter of a single right away, it’s over. We survived. However essentially the most notable motion of this race was but to return.The WrecksIf you’ve seen the spotlight reels the place hundreds of thousands of {dollars} price of vehicles, get became a pile of ineffective scrap metallic, and carbon fiber, likelihood is you had been watching a wreck at both Daytona or Talladega. As Tony Stewart as soon as remarked in jest after a Talladega race in 2012, “I’m simply sorry we couldn’t crash extra vehicles in the present day… Actually, if we haven’t crashed not less than 50 p.c of the sphere by the tip of the race, we have to prolong the race till we crash not less than 50 p.c of the vehicles.”So my group assured me on the radio as we acquired into the late levels of the race working in 34th place that “wrecks had been coming.” They had been proper. As we entered Flip Three with lower than 10 laps to go, an explosion of sparks, hearth, smoke, and fluids erupted.I slammed on my brakes to decelerate earlier than piling into the wreck. Fortunately I used to be in a position to decelerate; as I attempted to sift my method by, I began to slip in a little bit of oil on the banking.Instantly I used to be about to slam into Kyle Larson within the slowest crash in NASCAR historical past. Proper as I used to be about to hit him, the entrance tires gripped up and I used to be in a position to flip to keep away from him.We shot from 34th to 20th in that single wreck. Checking out the mess would trigger a prolonged pink flag, after we all come to a cease on the monitor so the security employees can clear the monitor.You sit there drenched in sweat, unable to maneuver, your ears ringing from the fixed noise. The security employees handed us all water bottles, which I used to pour down my go well with to attempt to quiet down slightly.Below the lights, a spotless automobile. OK, probably not.Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyThere could be one other large wreck with six laps to go and one other with two laps to go, sending the race into extra time. In complete 35 of the 40 vehicles within the race had some type of harm. I feel we over-delivered on Tony Stewart’s request.The AftermathWe crossed the end line 15th, nicely over 4 hours after the inexperienced flag. It was my greatest end in Cup so far.Finally, you get again to the hauler to vary and you may assess the harm, not of your automobile however your physique. Sweaty, sore and bruises on the collar bone the place my HANS gadget sits with the belts tightly on high of it. There isn’t any denying that over 4 hours in a highly regarded, brutal surroundings will take its toll.The 96 completed in 15th, a great consequence for Parker, and proof of how simply surviving the race can get you a high quality spot.Picture: Daylon Barr PhotographyThe greatest restoration juice I’ve discovered begins with a “T” and ends in “equila.” So later that night time I went into the infield to go to one of many fan “tent-bars” which are arrange by followers everywhere in the monitor. (Extra drivers ought to do that.) They’ll serve you drinks however they can’t cost you. Donations solely.I ordered a tequila soda and we hung on the market till it was introduced over the audio system that they had been going to need to shut down. To finish the night time, they performed a rock model of the nationwide anthem and held their hats on their hearts.Listening to it felt completely different this time. Grass underneath my toes, infield lights beaming by the night time, I couldn’t assist however take part.Parker Kligerman is a NASCAR driver, Jalopnik contributor, NBC Sports activities Community analyst and co-star of the automobile present Proving Grounds. We will’t attest to his singing voice, although.