– Every aspect of the Daytona 500, bigger than any race that we go to. So Jeff, you won it– 1989. What does Daytona mean to you?
– It’s really almost hard to put into words because it’s such an awesome event. You’ve got to realize, you know, I grew up racing half mile race tracks. And when you go into Daytona, it’s inspiring to begin with, and it’s intimidating.
But to understand the magnitude of that race and what it means to the drivers– or anybody who works on a race car– that’s Daytona. That’s what you dream about. That’s what kids dream about when you’re growing up. You want to be the best mechanic at the Daytona 500, or you want to wind up being the winning driver. And that’s really what really kind of sums it up. It’s just an unbelievable race.
– AJ, you know, I think you have a different perspective. Because you know, the series that you started in with the open-wheel stuff, Indy was number one– Indianapolis 500 and that racetrack. So I’m wondering now that you are here, what’s your appreciation– or how has your appreciation grown– for Daytona?
– Well, to me it just stands out– whether you’re a race fan, you live and die by racing, or you’re just kind of a general race fan, or you’ve really never been into racing– you say the Daytona 500, people know what you’re talking about. That’s how big this race is– whether you’re into it or not. There are so many people that tuned into this race that probably could care less about the next 35 races, because it’s the Daytona 500.
And that’s what this race means to our sport. It’s by far the biggest race we have. And for me as a driver, when I pull into Daytona, you drive into that tunnel, I just start sweating a little bit. You’re just like, OK, we’re here at Daytona. This is what it’s all about. And to be able to win at Daytona means so much more than most places.
– Yeah, the thing is– and which I think you’re pointing out– is the fact the name Daytona is bigger than the sport. It really is. It carries the sport because of the name itself. You mention Daytona– oh, you’re talking about stock car racing.