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NASCAR Makes Good Call: Pepsi 400 Postponed

3 July 1998

(July 3, 1998)-Brevard County, Florida

There's an old southern saying "That's right, but you can't get there from
here!" That folksy expression took on new meaning yesterday as I
attempted in vain to reach Daytona International Speedway. My home in
Brevard County is only 60 miles south of  Daytona Beach. On an average
day the travel time, via Interstate 95, from my driveway to the
track's tunnel is fifty-five minutes. Yesterday, with the numerous
wildfires, road closures and subsequent detours the day was anything
but normal. By the time I made it home, some six hours later, I returned
with a reminder of what is important in life.

Leaving the house at 6:30AM with a full-tank of fuel in my van and a
cooler of water and food, I set out on my journey. Clear skies greeted
the morning traffic. Tuning in the local AM all-talk radio station was
the first order of business. The reports and traffic advisories coming
from the field reporters were not encouraging. Knowing that Interstate
95 was closed, I was left with only one option. Go west on the Bee-Line
to Orlando, take the Greenway North to Sanford and get on Interstate 4
heading East and I would be in Daytona Beach by say, 8:30 AM. Talk about
optimism. That optimism would eventually turn to utter futility. The highway
traffic to Orlando was busier than normal but tolerable. All traffic
headed north on I-95 was being diverted west onto the Bee-Line Toll
Road. The first hint that this was not going to be a normal day came
when the temporary highway advisory sign on the Bee-Line flashed the
electronic message that "all tolls were lifted-proceed with caution." 'You
betcha', I thought to myself. I'll proceed with caution and still be in
the press room by 9:00am.Continuing to motor along at a reasonable pace
I noted that the traffic congestion was slowly building. 

Finally reaching Interstate 4 at 8:10AM, I concluded that my goal of being
at the speedway by 9:00AM might be pushed back a little. The electronic
message boards on I-4 indicated that I-95 was closed going north. The
traffic reports on the radio were suggesting that people stay off the
roads unless you had to be there. Since my destination did not require
traveling on I-95 I knew it would be slow going but nothing that could
not be dealt with.  Five miles later the moderate pace (55 mph) became
a little slower (45 mph). Ten miles later the pace slowed some more. The
clear skies that had greeted the morning were turning from blue to overcast
and finally to a dull, smoky gray. You could begin to taste the
smoke. Finally at 9:50am, within two miles of the speedway the traffic
came to a complete halt. The next two miles took thirty minutes. Finally,
peering through the hazy smoke I was within sight of the speedway. But
something was amiss the police were turning people around, not letting
anyone inside the speedway property except to visit Daytona USA. Then
the message came across the radio. The race had been postponed until
October 17.

Noting that some of the team tractor trailers were already pulling out I
decided against trying to get to the credential office. No sense in
adding to what had to be an already confusing situation.  My focus now
became one thought..."Get home!" Back-tracking on I-4 became an dual
experience. The road was a mobile parking lot but it also provided a
reality lesson reminding me of what is truly important in life. The
speeds never reached above forty miles an hour. Moving and stopping in
the traffic allowed me to observe carloads of people packed with household
possessions instead of the normal vacation luggage. These folks had, I
surmised, been given only a few minutes notice to evacuate their houses
and had to grab whatever they could before being forced to
evacuate. Suddenly the postponing of the race was not so much bad news
as it was the right decision. While I felt bad for the many racefans
who had traveled from out-of-state, I felt worse for those who were
leaving their homes for what could possibly be the last time.

Last night, after finally getting home, provided the right amount of time
to digest the experience.  NASCAR made the right decision to postpone 
the race. Bill France, Jr. and the rest of the staff put people and 
therefore the community in front of the almighty dollar. What a 
refreshing view!

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel