Here we are preparing to go out on the track, lining up in the staging area along the backstretch, and doing the lap. My car is the silver Grand Prix with the "Pontiac Racing" graphics set. These graphics are all original as they came from Daytona International Speedway. The car still has the 2001 Daytona 500 logos on the doors and the date of February 18, 2001. NASCAR fans will always remember that day as the day Dale Earnhardt Sr was lost at Daytona. The full history of my particular car can be seen by clicking the home button below.
After we completed our lap, we pulled off, and took some group photos of the members and their cars by the backside of the track. We then all hopped in our cars, and paraded them around to our parking area, where we had an area reserved to park our cars during the race. People would cheer for us as we drove by.
We went to our seats in the stands, and it was cool for me because I had not been to a NASCAR race since I was about 8 years old. So the races were pretty exciting for me.
After the Saturday Busch race, we all drove to our hotel, and later met for a club dinner at an Olive Garden Restaurant. This was a great chance to talk to other club members without the distractions of the track. There were some small door prizes, and it was an enjoyable time. A few people did not make the dinner, and decided to attend a concert at the track that night. Everybody got along great. I even plan on bringing my 6 year old next year, as families are welcome!
The next day (Sunday) was pretty much the same, with a bigger crowd for the NEXTEL CUP Race. More people, and more fun.
Just a few more pictures. That is my silver 2000 Daytona 500 Pace Car right behind a blue 1998 Daytona 500 Pace Car Edition. (The blue car belongs to Paul Cwiklinski, the President of the Pace Car Club of America. His car was a PROMO car for Daytona International Speedway). Note the light bar at the top of the rear window on the silver car. That is one part of an extensive WHELEN strobe lighting system used on the NASCAR Grand Prix Pace Cars. That is me standing beside my car with Larry "Mr Hot Wheels" Wood, the designer of Hot Wheels for 35 years, and "Hot Wheels Amy" Boylan, VP of Hot Wheels Collectors. It was great to have people from Hot Wheels ride along with us! What a great way to go to my first NASCAR race since I was a kid... :)
I left after the race on Sunday because of a tight work schedule, however, many club members stayed, and took a tour of some locations in Dearborn, Michigan. The extra day is scheduled in just in case the race is postponed a day due to weather. Fortunately, this did not happen!
So, How much did this all cost? Well, not much. Less than I would have spent if I had just gone to the races without the club. I had my annual club dues paid up ($50.00 per year... includes insurance for club events, decals, newletters, etc.). For the Michigan Race, I paid for my $70.00 NEXTEL CUP TICKET, but with that I received my Pit Passes for both days, and the ticket to the Busch Race the day before (about $120.00 worth of passes for the $70.00 ticket). I had to pay a $25.00 registration fee to get my car on the track, and that was it for the race (The club pays for an insurance policy that allows us to go on the track, so we are getting by cheap with just a $25.00 registration fee). I had to pay for my hotel room, which I split with the three other people that came with me (they paid $70.00 each for their tickets also). And I paid for my food and gas, which I would have had to pay for anyway going to a race. Bottom line on expenses, $25.00 for car registration, then $70.00 for each ticket, plus food and hotel. (Figure on 2 nights hotel, and the rooms are about $120.00 a night. If you split it with others though, its cheap! >>> PLUS... The sponsor money may cover part of the hotel costs this year!) Anyway, the expenses are pretty much the normal expenses you would incur just going to the race. Then you get all the extras thrown in, like Pit Passes, Busch tickets, free (and hassle-free!) parking, etc. Not to mention all of the cool things that you get to do while you are there, and the items that were given out for us. And you get to help charities a little. I imagine other races may be a little different, but this is the way it was at Michigan so you have a little idea of what to expect.
The President of the club, Paul Cwiklinski, shells out the money for these tickets AHEAD of time, so he does ask for a deposit ahead of time. For the 2005 Michigan race, he is asking for a $175.00 deposit towards the hotel and tickets. I consider this fair, otherwise he would have thousands of dollars of his own money out on tickets ($70.00 per person times 2 or 3 per car, times 16-20 cars, it could easily be $4,000 or more, plus $25.00 per car registration)... I am sure if something came up at the last minute, and you could not attend the event, someone else would be able to buy your tickets. At MIS in 2004, someone dropped out a few days before the race due to a family emergency, and someone in the club bought the tickets for friends to go with (me). So I would not hesitate to send a deposit. This club has an established relationship with ISC, and has been doing these events since the 1998 Daytona 500 Pace Car Replicas came out, so it is a group you can have faith in.
Obviously, there were many benefits to going to this race with the club. We did not have to worry about parking, as we had the cars on display before the race, and we had a reserved parking area during the race. It is really nice not to have to worry about having your car vandalized or anything, as the graphics on my particular car can't be replaced. For the price of the NEXTEL CUP RACE ticket, we had the Pit Passes, and the Busch Tickets thrown in. I was given a nice canvas CABELAS (Sponsor of the BUSCH Race) Banner, and some Limited Edition Hot Wheels Cars signed by Larry Wood, the main designer for Hot Wheels for 35 years. We were also given "Hot Wheels Racing" hats that were only available to the race drivers, track officials, Hot Wheels Officials, and US. These hats were signed by Larry Wood, and "Hot Wheels Amy", Amy Boylan, VP of Hot Wheels Collectors. We got to hang around with the other club members that share a common interest in these cars, and we talked to many fans as they looked at the cars. And we got to help out the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and VICTORY JUNCTION a little bit. Altogether, it was cheaper than going to the race on my own, and I did not have to worry about parking or anything...
Now, this was my first event with the club, and I am sure every event is a little different. Some of the club members are regulars that attend nearly all events. I am sure some people only make select events that are in their part of the country. I know that for the 2005 season, the club will be doing the Michigan race again, and is looking at the Brickyard 400, and a couple of races at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte. They also do some non-race events, including parades, and a club outing at Watkins Glen. I will definitely go to the Michigan and Brickyard races next year. Charlotte may be a little far away, but I will try to make at least one of the Charlotte races. Having two young kids (and another on the way), and a full time job with a screwed up schedule, I feel lucky to get to the races I do get to. Heck, I feel lucky just to HAVE MY CAR, let alone traveling around the country with it!
****SPECIAL NOTE FOR PEOPLE IN THE MIDWEST...****
LET'S GET A PACE CAR CONVOY GOING TO THESE EVENTS!!!
I am hoping to generate more interest from people in the Midwest. I think it would be really fun to drive to these races as a group. I have talked to people in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. It would be neat to maybe meet in the Chicago area, and drive in a group to Indy or Michigan. Just an idea. My car might be on a trailer going to the farther away races though. Maybe we can plan some more events in the Midwest as well. I live only 20 miles from Chicagoland Speedway, so that may be a goal for a future event. And of course we can consider car shows and parades...
As far as what kinds of cars were at the Michigan Race with the club... There were about nine 1998 Grand Prix Daytona 500 Pace Car Editions (the club started with these cars), a white 2000 Grand Prix ASA Retired Pace Car, my 2000 Daytona 500 Retired Pace Car (one of 2), a 2000 Daytona 500 Pace Car replica (one of 2000), an 02 Dale Earnhardt INTIMIDATOR Monte Carlo (one of 3333), a white Anniversary Edition Trans Am, a black Monte Carlo Brickyard Edition Pace Car (one of 100), and a silver Camaro Convertible Parade Car used as a "Driver Introduction" car for Jeremy Mayfield in the Brickyard 400 (one of 43). We would love to hear from intersted owners of any of the NASCAR themed Monte Carlos, such as the Dale Jr., Intimidator, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart cars, and the ONE Michael Waltrip LEGACY Car (yes there is one, I have chatted to the girl that owns it!). All of the Pace Car Edition and BRICKYARD PACE CAR Monte Carlos are welcome, as well as any retired NASCAR Pace Cars, or Grand Prix Daytona 500 Pace Car Edition Cars. The Trans Am Anniversary and Collector Edition cars are eligible, as these were used as pace cars at Daytona many times. Parade and Driver Introduction cars are welcome as well. If you have any questions about eligibility, feel free to call Paul Cwiklinski at the number below. He will be happy to talk to you. The club allows Associate Members also, so if you do not have a car to take on the track, we will get you a ride.
One more thing. If you join the club, and get three more people to join, your membership will be free the following year. So keep an eye out in your area for other NASCAR related street cars and spread the word. You just never know, maybe you'll make some new friends (I have), and you may be able to start planning local events, and drive together in a group to these NASCAR events! So, that is about it. I just thought I would write this out to give people that are interested an idea of what it is like. If you are really interested in these events, contact Paul Cwiklinski at:
PACE CAR CLUB OF AMERICA pacecarusa.com
2424 Center St.
East Aurora, NY 14052
Phone: Cell 716 479 2824 Home 716 652 0136 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure to get a hold of him before you send in your dues, just to make sure your car is eligible. And tell him George from Chicago sent you! I would really love to see more Retired Pace Cars join, as well as some Inaugural Brickyard Pace Cars. Also some older Trans Am Pace Cars would be cool. I only mention these because they are my personal favorites, but others have favorites too!
Hope to see you at the track!
FEEL FREE TO CHECK OUT MY 2000 DAYTONA 500 PACE CAR HOME