Confession time. I have not been the world’s greatest racing fan this season despite my best intention. As soon as the 2009 schedule was posted, I dutifully put all of the races in my calendar –determined to watch as many as possible and determined to continue my NASCAR education. And I got off to an OK start. I watched the Budweiser Shoot-Out on February 7th and got my first real taste of the craziness that is Daytona…so much so that I watched my first Daytona 500 the following week. And I think I watched part or most of the next few races. But here’s the problem. February, March – also prime college basketball season. And there were trips to NYC and Saturday night plans that just didn't involved TVs and racing.
I missed Jimmie’s first victory of the season. I missed Jeff Gordon’s grand comeback. I even missed the Subway Fresh Fit 500 which had been my inaugural race last year and which I wanted to watch if for nothing more, at least because I am somewhat sentimental. Suddenly – it was almost like I was totally out of the NASCAR loop.
And then I found myself at Lowe’s Motor Speedway this past Friday. It was my first time visiting ever and I have to say, I found it kind of inspiring and majestic. This huge structure of metal and blue glass rising up into the sky. Flags blowing in the breeze. I was kind awe-struck. Now – I doubt I ever would have gotten my act together and headed up to Lowe’s on my own. But our local Rotary Group was hosting an exchange team from Chile and one of the activities they had on the itinerary was a tour of the Speedway and I was more than happy to volunteer to be part of the group that went up there. As it turned out, most of the Chileans were more interested in shopping and so they headed off to Concord Mills (OK – so did you know that Concord Mills is the #1 attraction in the entire state of North Carolina? Can you imagine? All of the amazing and wonderful things we have in this ENTIRE state and people flock to a giant freaking mall? I mean really…it's rather upsetting and disturbing on so many levels – and this coming from someone who loves to shop!) but a handful of us stayed at the Speedway and waited for the 3:30 tour.
So I forgot my camera. Me. Who treats every experience as either something for this blog or something to be plastered all over Facebook…yes, I forgot my camera. So there are no pictures to show you, but while we waited, we walked up the ramp out into the stands and watched what was going on at the track. There were cars on the track, and as it turns out, it was the Richard Petty Driving Experience – but for a minute I really wondered if I was watching Jimmie practice. Anyways, it was all sort of exhilarating and exciting and made me wish I was going to the race in a few weeks and made me wonder why I wasn't going to the race in a few weeks (Oh yeah- traffic. After a really bad experience at Verizon Wireless Ampitheater when we first moved down here I have made it my mission to avoid similar situations and I feel like the Speedway on Race Day would be one of said situations.).
The tour involves getting into a 15 passenger van and they drive you around and into the Speedway and through the go-cart track, and around the infield, and they point out all the different levels of seats and boxes and condos and how much they all cost. And then they bring you over to Victory Circle where you can have your picture taken, and you can get out and stand along Pit Road and watch the driving school action. And then they take you out on the actual track (in the van) and bring you up on Turn 2 (I think) and it’s 24 degrees which may not seem steep, but totally is. And then they tell you how steep Talladega is (33 degrees) and Bristol (36 degrees) and you can't even begin to imagine what it must feel like to be in a tiny car going 175 – 180mph around these steep curves. And then the van is off and you take a lap at ~ 70mph and suddenly you want to drop $109 for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Only not today. Because today is too hot. But you vow to return in the fall when it's cooler and take your 3 laps in a car just like Jimmie drives. At least – you think all of this if you were me this past Friday.
And by the time the tour was done (and it was, for the record, totally lots of fun and worth it and the Speedway is so nice when it's not crowded), I was Facebooking my girl Saej to see about getting tickets for Bristol in August. I am back NASCAR. So back. Did you miss me?
And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your…
PS Who watched Talladega yesterday? I mean was that shit not AWESOME? That my friends, is why I love racing.
2 days ago