DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Before NASCAR Cup Series drivers take the green flag for Sunday’s 65th annual Daytona 500, they have to answer hundreds of questions from reporters.
NASCAR leaders say 320 media members flock to Daytona Beach for The Great American Race. This crop of media members includes network reporters, local reporters, newspaper reporters, and photographers.
The annual Daytona 500 Media Day, held the Wednesday before the 500, means questions, from hard-hitting to easy-going, will be answered. Professional drivers represent their teams and sponsors while getting peppered with questions. Nothing was off-limits.
The 40 qualifying Daytona 500 drivers will be chasing the checkered flag and the Harley J. Earl trophy. The trophy is always on display at Media Day, but today’s the one time you won’t find drivers looking at it. Instead, they look at the dozens of TV cameras, with a microphone just a few inches away.
Burton, Jones Play Along
Some questions take a more serious tone, like when a media member asked Harrison Burton where he would want to be in the top five when the white flag flies on Sunday.
“That is a hard question. I don’t know,” Burton responded.
Other questions take a funny tone. One media member asked A.J. Allmendinger about his cat, who has his own Twitter account, is doing.
“Mr. Tickles is good, and we have Zena the French Bull Dog now. They both made the trip, so they are here,” the driver replied.
From walking the dog to walking down the red carpet, media day is the first time drivers can show off their new sponsors and firesuits.
Like the questions posed by reporters, sponsorships can range all over the spectrum.
“I don’t know. I found out a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to Jimmie [Johnson], and he’s like, ‘Hey, are you a Guns N’ Roses fan? And I said, ‘yeah, I always liked them,'” Erik Jones said.
Why’s that, Erik? The 26-year-old Michigan driver will run with a paint scheme inspired by the band.
Other drivers have more traditional sponsorships. For example, one Legacy Motor Club driver’s fast-food sponsor added a unique touch to his presentation.
“Yeah, I am the Wendy’s guy. You can call me the Wendy’s guy,” Noah Gragson said in all seriousness.
Gragson’s Wendy’s fire suit looked so authentic that he could pass as an employee in the restaurant. Well, maybe.
Media day is long, and it could call for drivers needing a quick fast food snack. Most drivers take the time to answer questions, appearing on TV, under bright lights, in stride. They know it’s all part of the process before taking the green flag Sunday.
“My honest opinion is it’s better being here than not being here. You could be upset about being here, but then you realize you’re going to race in the Daytona 500,” Burton said.
Media outlets travel across the country to cover the Daytona 500, including local outlets from as far away as Las Vegas.