March 10, 2023 at 6:37 p.m.
Racing enthusiasts Mike and Linda Hanson, of Goodridge, ventured to the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, to see the legends of NASCAR live during the opening race of the season.
“The Daytona 500 is the granddaddy of racing, the biggest race of all,” Mike said.
The Hansons do not leave their 150-cow registered Ayrshire dairy herd often, but now that their sons farm full time with them, they have started to cross things off their bucket list.
“The cars are going 180 to 200 mph, and the cars are between 2 inches and 2 feet apart, and they do that for 500 miles,” Mike said. “Try going down (Interstate 94) at 190 mph with 2 inches between you and the next car and do that for 500 miles. The athleticism of these drivers is pretty phenomenal.”
The Hansons, at the invitation of some long-time friends who are regulars at the race, received pit passes so they were able to take part in pre-race festivities. They spent time on the infield of the track and saw the infamous garages and cars up close. They also attended a pre-race Dierks Bentley concert.
Linda said they were awestruck as they approached the infield.
“Getting to the track and walking through the tunnel into the infield, I kept saying to myself, ‘We are really here,’” Linda said.
They walked on the legendary track and, in true NASCAR fan tradition, inscribed their names on the yellow line marking the track’s edge next to thousands of other names.
They went to three races and spent five hours touring the grounds before the big race started.
“There are all kinds of exhibits and other stuff to see,” Mike said.
The couple became serious about NASCAR in 2001. Mike is a fan of Dodge, and Dodge made a return to NASCAR in 2001.
“That’s what peaked our interest,” he said.
Linda said their family is interested in racing of all kinds.
“Racing is in our blood whether it’s sleds or cars,” she said.
The couple said they race snowmobiles and dirt bikes cross-country.
“We kind of like the rev of a motor; it’s an adrenaline rush,” Mike said. “If you did it, you understand it. It’s an individual thing. It’s you against everybody else.”
The Hansons have attended other races and events and met Kasey Kahne, who signed one of their NASCAR diecast cars. The duo has also collected hats and other memorabilia.
“My most prized possession is my No. 9 Kasey Kahne autographed car,” Mike said. “I also have a Bill Elliott leather jacket.”
Before the start of the Daytona 500, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds conducted an aerial show.
“Most of the races are very military minded,” Mike said. “There is a prayer, the national anthem and a flyover.”
Linda said the sounds and smells of actually being there brought the event to life.
“It’s a 2.5-mile track, so when the cars are on the opposite side of the track, you can watch the jumbo screen to see what it happening until the cars come back around,” Linda said.
The Hansons said they follow drivers on Team Penske, such as Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.
“(Ryan) is a young upcoming driver, and his dad, Dave Blaney, used to race back in the day,” Mike said. “NASCAR has a lot of family racing, where a driver had his dad or grandpa race. Even the professional side is very family-oriented with NASCAR.”
Though the Hansons, who are active with various dairy organizations, have attended meetings and conventions all over the world, they often do not attend such events together. When their children were young, they occasionally hired someone to milk so they could have one night away from the farm.
Now, their sons, the fourth generation on the farm, milk 150 cows with two robotic milking units and also utilize an automatic feeding system. They farm 2,800 acres of wheat, oats, soybeans, corn and alfalfa.
Matthew is in charge of the cows, and Steven takes care of the crops, but everyone helps where needed. David helps with decision making but lives and farms with his in-laws in southern Minnesota.
Linda said the robots make it easier to get away.
“By switching to the robots, we don’t get calls from our boys asking questions about the milking equipment, because they know more about the robots than we do,” she said.
For the last several years, Mike said they have made it a priority to leave the farm for one week.
“Once I get in the car or plane, I just forget about what’s going on at home and focus on where I’m going,” Mike said.
This time around, the couple planned to fly out of Thief River Falls but their flight was delayed, which forced them to drive to the Twin Cities to catch a connecting flight only to have that flight delayed as well. Their flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, eventually took off but once again missed the connection. Due to the flight delays, the Hansons were forced to rent a vehicle and drive more than 400 miles across three states to make it to the race in time.
“We finally made it, but we ended up driving about half the distance to get there,” Mike said.
Regardless, they said the trip was one of the best things they have ever done.
“The whole thing was such an adrenaline rush,” Mike said.
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