DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Despite the rainy weather in the area, many NASCAR fans spent Valentine’s Day celebrating their love of racing, and a lot of those fans arrived hours before the race.

What You Need To Know

  • Daytona 500 sold out 30,000-ticket allotment

  • Attendance is limited to about a third of capacity because of pandemic

  • Race-day traditions adapted to continue fan interaction safely

  • Rainy weather was expected to affect the race today

“After going to this track, the next place is heaven," Bob Sommers of Chattanooga, Tennessee said. "It’s just beautiful down here.”

Sommers and his brother got up early to tailgate near Daytona International Speedway, making a video to show relatives at home what they’re missing.

“My family likes to watch and, of course, it’s raining and icy up in Tennessee right now," Sommers said. "Too bad for them right?

Watching the “Great American Race” is a tradition Chris Rader of Orlando and his family rarely miss.

“Long, long family tradition," Rader said. "My grandfather has been coming to the race for four, five decades. My father’s here, my two uncles, and my wife,”

With tickets for the Daytona 500 sold out, organizers were excited to welcome in thousands of fans to the speedway for the big race, but for dedicated fans, there were some changes compared to the 500 last year. The speedway took steps to protect fans during the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting attendance numbers to 30,000 in a facility that seats 101,000 and taking temperatures of people coming in. 

But even with thousands expected to fill the stands, many fans were not worried about getting COVID-19.

"This is America. You take a risk," Sommers said. "You might succeed, you might fail, right? Where’s the American spirit, right? Not at all worried about it so I’ll take the risk myself, and I’ll enjoy the race and if I get sick, I get sick,”

Rader added, “The highest-risk guy here has already been through it and did fine. So we’ve got our masks, ready to comply.”

The rain didn't dampen his spirits either.

“It’s a great experience, and seeing it live is totally different than seeing it on TV," Rader said.