Biffle visits DAYTONA Rising mid-construction
June 04, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
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Eleven months ago Greg Biffle ceremoniously shoveled a little dirt and competed in a front-loader race as part of ground-breaking activities for the $400 million DAYTONA Rising redevelopment project at NASCAR's most famous track, Daytona International Speedway.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver arrived at the speedway Wednesday and couldn't believe his eyes.
"Pretty incredible to see how much they've gotten done since we were here last,'' Biffle said. "I took the stairs to the first level of the new section and from the first seat in the new section you can see the entire race track. It's incredible, it's going to be such a great spot to watch a race from, I can't even believe it."
As part of the visit, Biffle was hoisted high into the air to demonstrate one of his No. 16 Ford sponsor 3M's fall protection harnesses. He also toured the newest construction and even installed one of the new seats himself in what's complete of the upper level concourse.
"The seats are bigger, have cup holders and arm rests,'' Biffle reported. "I sat in them for a while actually and took in the view. And I'll tell you what, the view of the infield road course is incredible. Those will feel like million dollar seats to watch the Rolex 24."
DIS President Joie Chitwood wasn't surprised that Biffle was surprised about the progress.
"It's amazing to me from March till today how much work we've done,'' Chitwood said. "It looks like we've done more work in the last three months than we did the first six months.
"Steel goes up quicker than I believed. There are escalators in. You're starting to see the restroom buildings on the concourses, it's just amazing how it looks so much more defined than it did.
"What's cool is Greg Biffle is actually one of the drivers who performed the ground breaking ceremony. He's coming back a year later and it went from moving some dirt and running heavy equipment to millions of pounds of concrete on the ground and millions of pounds of steel in the air.
"I think fans, partners, the industry are going to be blown away by how much work that we've had the last couple months. I feel good about that. Always nice when work is so visible."
Of course the first phase of construction involved infrastructure – millions of pounds of concrete poured and huge steel beams erected. Now the amenities and updated look – or "reimagining" as its being described – are much more apparent. Certainly they will be obvious when the people arrive in Daytona Beach for the July 5 Coke Zero 400.
Chitwood said construction – expected to be complete by January of 2016 -- is even slightly ahead of schedule. Work will continue until about 10 days before race weekend in order for the facility to properly prepare to host the race and race fans. After the event, it's just a fast nine-day clean-up before workers begin again in earnest.
And being ahead of schedule will come in handy for Florida's upcoming summer afternoon thunderstorm season.
"It's a lot different because Coke Zero is just a quick weekend, three to four days of activity versus two or three months we had from January to March, so a lot different approach,'' Chitwood said. "But people are going to be blown away by how much different the property looks with concrete and steel in the air. It's all good.''
Of all the new updates Biffle saw and the impressive views he took in at the 50-year old facility, it was a much simpler "wow" moment for him – he was most awed by the massive escalators that are already going up in the new grandstands.
"It's about the entire experience and the fan amenities are really going to play a role here,'' Biffle said. "Once the fans get a chance to see the views, go to the massive new restrooms and restaurants, it does say a lot about our sport. It puts us in a different league.
"It's so fitting for this to be the birthplace of the sport and the showcase for it at the same time."