This past January, we crossed a big item off our racing bucket list — the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. While we usually don’t like missing much of the action on the track, realistically we knew there was no way we were staying up for 24-plus hours.
The Plan: Hang around the track until after the fireworks, which were scheduled for about 11 p.m. Then head back to the hotel, which was a couple of miles away, to grab a few hours of sleep. Set the alarm for 4:30 a.m., giving us plenty of time to get back to the track and set up on top of the Daytona 500 Club so Matt could capture photos of the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and, more importantly, the superstretch of the Daytona International Speedway.
What Really Happened: The fireworks over Lake Lloyd were excellent, and we went back to the hotel. And that’s pretty much where our plan ended.
In my mind, I figured I’d go back and fall right to sleep. But I forgot to take all the adrenaline from a day at the track. But eventually exhaustion took over, and I fell asleep. The next time I opened my eyes, the clock said 5:13. Too … early … Wait. I shook Matt. “Get up! The alarm didn’t go off!” For as long as we’ve known each other, I don’t think the two of us have ever gotten ready and out the door that quickly.
We drove to the same gate we’d been using all weekend. Of course, it was closed. So we drove all the way around to the other side of the huge track. We finally made it to the Daytona 500 Club and got everything set up before sunrise. For a moment, everything was good. We could see the purplish hint of the sun coming up over the superstretch grandstands.
Then we looked behind us. And watched the fog roll in. Just like that, the sunrise we had been waiting for disappeared. Matt may have missed out on taking some pictures of the sunrise, but he got to shoot cars in the fog during the hour and a half caution.
And hopefully next year, we’ll catch the sunrise.
Photos by Matthew Lowell Thompson