As a friend of the late seven-time NASCAR champion and 1998 Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, former Major Leaguer and current Daytona Cubs manager Jody Davis has visited the hallowed grounds of Daytona International Speedway more times than he can count.
But he has never driven on it.
On Friday, Davis, manager of the Chicago Cubs' Class A affiliate Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League, wheeled a stock car from the Richard Petty Driving Experience around the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval.
"Grand slam, grand slam," Davis said after he climbed out of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota after driving eight laps. “That was so much more than I expected. You just never know what speed like that feels like. It was exciting. I’m ready to go do that again.”
Davis, who played 10 seasons as a catcher in the Major League most notably with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, reached a top speed of 145 mph during his eight-lap session and said the sensation of the daunting 31-degree high banks stood out to him during his ride.
“I’ve watched so many races here on TV and you just can’t grasp how much banking there is in the turns,” Davis said. “The car went wherever I wanted it to go.”
Davis met Earnhardt in the late 1980s when he attended a NASCAR event at Atlanta Motor Speedway as a guest of Wrangler. The two quickly developed a friendship.
“Dale called me a couple of weeks later and said let’s go deer hunting and we were off and running from there,” Davis said.
Earnhardt is the all-time wins leader at Daytona International Speedway with 34 victories including the 1998 Daytona 500.
For Davis, being a friend of Earnhardt made his laps around Daytona International Speedway on Friday afternoon that much more special.
“Dale Earnhardt loved this place and loved the race fans down here,” Davis said. “I’m just really glad to be a part of it,” Davis said.
A variety of Richard Petty Driving Experience riding and driving packages are available at Daytona International Speedway for race fans through October. Special twilight RPDE rides will be available following the Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered By Coca-Cola on Sunday, July 6 (weather and schedule permitting).
For the only time during the year, race fans will be able ride shotgun with a professional driver for three laps under the lights around DIS for $149 plus tax. All twilight rides need to be scheduled in advance by calling 1-800-BE-PETTY.
To purchase race tickets for the upcoming Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered By Coca-Cola on July 3-5, go online to http://www.racetickets.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.