Twenty-two of 24 living Daytona...
Twenty-two of 24 living Daytona 500 winners gathered for a photo shoot last summer. Fred Lorenzen and Cale Yarborough were the only absentees.
You're now well aware that this year marks the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
It's a landmark for the sport, a half-century of races at the world's most significant stock car track.
One man, in particular, has been busy the past 18 months or so keeping the media apprised of events and developments, which in turn channeled them on to you, the readers, viewers and listeners. We're speaking of Andrew Booth, 33, Daytona International Speedway's Manager of Media Relations.
Before the green flag falls at the 2.5 mile speedway on February, 17, Booth will have authored something like 100 press releases on the event.
Put in recognizable terms, if laid end-to-end, those releases would equal an 11-car draft down Daytona's backstretch, or to put it another way, if taped up on Daytona's infield scoring pylon, those releases would reach up well past that 70-foot distance.
But that is hardly even denting the surface on what Booth's duties have encompassed coming into this 50th celebration.
Everything from reunions to face lifts and fan-friendly attractions have come under his direction.
"Planning for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 started at least 18 months in advance of our race date of Feb. 17, 2008," he says.
And how did Booth and his staff come up with ideas and promotions?
1. Dale Jarrett, 2, Bill Elliott,...
1. Dale Jarrett, 2, Bill Elliott, 3. Ernie Irvan, 4. Michael Waltrip, 5. Pete Hamilton, 6. Buddy Baker, 7. Jimmie Johnson, 8. Richard Petty, 9. Jeff Gordon, 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 11. Bobby Allison, 12. David Pearson, 13. Marvin Panch, 14. Kevin Harvick, 15. Ward Burton, 16. Junior Johnson, 17. Geoffrey Bodine, 18. Derrike Cope, 19. Sterling Martin, 20. Darrell Waltrip, 21. Mario Andretti, 22. A.J. Foyt
"We had many meetings with many different departments within the Daytona International Speedway and International Speedway Corporation family, brainstorming and putting together our plans for the most anticipated event in racing history," Booth says.
One of those undertakings was the reunion of Daytona 500 winners at Daytona last July.
"That was a major undertaking. To get the biggest names in motorsports history in one place at one time had its challenges," Booth says. "You've got current drivers whose schedules are busy as well as legends all coming from different parts of the country. It was a team effort between Daytona International Speedway and our media agency Taylor to put together the logistics and pull that off. The legends were very excited about this reunion and many changed their schedules to take part in this high-profile event.
"We had 22 of the 24 living champions participate in the event and the reward was worth it for everybody. The group picture of all the Daytona 500 champions is one that people will look back on for years and the media truly enjoyed talking to many of the legends in the sport.
"The event produced the early buzz on the 50th running of the Daytona 500 and I believe many reporters will use the material they gained during that event for advance coverage on the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in January and February."
That wasn't the most challenging endeavor leading up to the race, however, says Booth, a native of the Daytona area.
"The biggest part of the job leading up to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 has been putting together the 50th web site, www.daytona500.com." Booth says. "That site has a ton of video, photos, audio and other historical information, and gathering that material was time consuming. We also had to work with our designers in the construction of the site but the product that it has become is something that everybody here at the Speedway is very proud of.
Andrew Booth interviews Pearson,...
Andrew Booth interviews Pearson, the 1976 winner.
"We encourage race fans to get their Daytona 500 fix by visiting that site. It's worth the trip."
One of the amusing stories that came out of the room of Daytona 500 champions was when the group learned that Buddy Baker got a speeding ticket the night after winning his 1980 Daytona 500. Those present also got to listen and watch as A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti reflected on their racing days.
"That day was unforgettable." Booth says.
So what will fans see as the fruits of Booth's and his associates labors when they arrive for Speedweeks 2008?
"The first thing fans will notice when they come to Daytona International Speedway for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 is that it'll be dressed in gold," Booth says. "From street signs to the banners hanging on the grandstands, Daytona International Speedway will have a gold look.
"We will have several special activities planned. We're attempting to gather as many Daytona 500 winning cars together and we're planning on having the Daytona 500 champions return for the race. We will have top-notch pre-race entertainment, and a special cement casting at The Daytona 500 Experience motorsports attraction.
"In addition, our marketing partners such as Chevrolet, AAA, Kroger and UPS are providing opportunities for guests to take part in the event through various promotions."