Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gentlemen, start your engines...

I went to the races this weekend, specifically, the Busch and NASCAR races at the Texas Motor Speedway. I know nothing about automobile races, in fact, I know so little about them that I don’t know whether I should use an article when referring to them (as in, "the" Busch and "the" NASCAR races), or whether they’re just called Busch and NASCAR (like the British say they’re "going to hospital" vs. we Americans, who say we’re going to "the" hospital, as if there were just one. But I digress.

Late last week, I got a call from my ex inviting me to join him and some friends who were driving up from Houston for the races, and who generously provided the (much sought after and absurdly pricey) tickets for all of us. NASCAR fans are serious fans. In addition to the stadium seating, Dallas provides over 5,000 camping spaces at the Texas Motor Speedway for fans who travel here to see the race. According to the Texas Motor Speedway website: "The Speedway offers five distinct camping areas suited to a wide variety of needs and requirements".

The 5 areas are Infield camping, VIP camping, Reserved campgrounds, Tent City, and Unreserved. Camping, too, can be very pricey. Tent City and Unreserved may be affordable, but infield camping ranges from $700 (yep, 3 digits...and that’s for interior infield) to $2000 (paddock, row 1). Judging by the expensive and elaborate rigs that inhabited most of the infield, this is not exactly a hardship for most of those camping there. Also, all infield camping requires that each person have an Infield Pass ($65), which can be purchased at the gate.

I’ve been up for some new experience, and to that end, I’ve been considering the Cypress Valley Canopy Tours...the Busch/NASCAR races were quicker, didn’t require the emotional psyching that I’m going to have to do to myself to do the canopy tour, and were (for me) a freebie, so I immediately said yes.

From the moment we arrived, early Saturday morning, luck was with me. For starters, we had tickets to one of the Luxury Suites...meaning, instead of sitting in the stands, in the bright Texas sun, on hard benches without backs, where the noise from the cars is so deafeningly loud that earplugs are essential, we got to watch the races from the comfort of cushy seats, in an air conditioned, quiet suite complete with a full buffet and private restrooms and an incredible view of the entire track.

As if that weren’t enough, there were drawings for prizes, and luck being with me, very shortly after arriving on Saturday morning I won two things: a collapsible cooler on wheels (handy, should I decide that I want to bring 4 six-packs of beer to any event I plan to attend in the future), and something really amazing: a place as a driver in the Driver Intro Parade. In plain English, I won a place driving a brand new Chevy Silverado truck on a single lap around the track of the Texas Motor Speedway, with a race car driver standing behind me, in the bed the truck I was driving, waving to the roaring crowd. Of over 200,000 people attending the races as spectators, just 43 of us got to actually drive around the track on Saturday morning. For someone who didn’t even learn to drive until I was 30, and who has never, ever, driven any sort of truck, it was a very cool experience, if I do say so myself. Trust me, I called friends on my cell phone to tell them exactly where I was, as I sat in the truck at the edge of the track, waiting to pick up the racer assigned to me.

Kyle Busch was the racer assigned to ride with me. A rising star, Mr. Busch is a gracious and impressive young man who began racing at age 13. He graduated from high school a year early to further his racing career, only to be prohibited from competing in any of NASCAR's series after the sanctioning body decided that drivers had to be 18 or older. The mother in me doesn’t think that’s a bad idea, as the average speed on Sunday was 137 mph. Just 20 years old (the same age as my sons!) he's twice been named Rookie of the Year. Mr. Busch came in 4th on Saturday, and 15th in the NASCAR on Sunday. In terms of points, at the end of race on Sunday, he was 7th overall.

When we got to our trucks on Saturday, there was a sort of one-way walkie talkie radio for each of us, from which we received instructions as to what to do. Amid much static, this is what I heard (yep, I’m such a nerd, I took notes):

"Fire ‘em up!"
"Headlights ‘n hazards on!"
"Thumbs up, outside yer windows, if y’all can hear me on yer radios!"
"Ladies ‘n gen’lmen, we’re fixin’ to roll in 5 minutes!"
"Wait for the truck to yer right to roll out, then snug behind ‘em!"
"Awright, let’s rock! Go ahead ‘n block it off, we’re gonna start comin’ out!"
"Awright, ladies and gen’lmen, we’re gonna start rollin’...nice an’ tight to the person in front a you...nice an’ tight...we got 43 of ‘em we gotta snug ‘em on in here..."

And then, one by one, we pulled out onto the track, where the trucks looked rather beautiful: red, black, red, the end of the line.

A few observations. The Texas Motor Speedway is an oval, 1.5 miles around. Racers drove 200 laps on Saturday, and 334 laps on Sunday. The track is much steeper than it appears from a distance, with 24-degree banks. Up close, these appear to be almost vertical, so I stayed on the flats (as we were, in fact, sternly admonished to do) in my single lap. When I got home, I looked up track banking statistics on the web: at Indianapolis, the banks are 12 degrees; at Nashville, 14; at Daytona, 31. In the Driver Intro Parade, in spite of the fact that my ex calls me "leadfoot", I drove s l o w l y ...after all, I had a racer standing in the back of the truck.

I have to admit, I had a great time, but I also have to say, that although I attended NASCAR this weekend, I have no intention of "gettin’ ink done".


Marika said...

!!! What an amazing adventure...

Fantastic photos too...

Melissa said...

Oh Judi!! I had such fun reading this entry! I am not a Nascar fan either, but my gosh, an experience like that might turn me in to one! My sister and her husband are huge fans and I kept thinking how my sister would almost sell her soul for the chance to do what you did! What a wonderful adventure for you! You must have been holding your mouth right to win that prize. Love it, love it, love it!

Tammy said...

How cool was that! I would only do NASCAR as you did...Hot & loud would not do :) You are my hero!!!!!!!!


Paul said...

Forgive me. I am confused. For a moment, I thought you had confessed both to geting along with an ex and to enjoying NASCAR. All that orange sunshine in the 60's, you know.

TJ said...

Wow! Now that is ahving fun...wished I was with you. I like the people and the excitement but not to into the races.
Tell me...was there alot of tight blues jeans on tall, dark ( light is good too) and handsomes?
LOL What a gal!!

Lisa :-] said...

How funny! You are certainly one to go for the gusto in anything you attempt. I probably would have given my prize over to someone who was a big NASCAR fan. I am a boring old fart. :-]

Chris said...

(handy, should I decide that I want to bring 4 six-packs of beer to any event I plan to attend in the future),

You are so right.....if you are going to another NASCAR event you'd better take two of those coolers....ha ha ha.

Glad ya had a great time, Judi.

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leenie71689 said...

Hi E~ I noticed you visit some of the same blogs as me so I was curious about you. This sounds like an AWESOME experience!!! Dont you wish they let you rip around the track just once?!!

G-Man said...

I have always wanted to go to one of these races. Reading your post has me all fired up!

Ms. Lori said...

How cool! And you look ADORABLE in that photo.

Judith HeartSong said...

good for you!!!!!! judi

dreaminglily said...

Oooo super cool lol So lucky. Glad you had a good time! :oD


TJ said...

A drive by hello.
Checking in on you...Hug TJ

tina said...

Ah, good for you ! Sounds like one of those times when everything just goes right ( for a change ? lol ) Glad to hear that your NASCAR experience was a good ( and a comfortable ) one. Tina

ab said...

Good God...I'm almost a year late on this. Sounds like you got out of your comfort zone Judi and had a great time. What an experience this was for you!

As I take a quick break at work looking for a specific post, I found this. Loved reading about your experience. Not enough time and space to say enough - suffice it to say you now owe yourself a trip back to the track for an IRL race. (Indy Racing League). It's the wine and cheese crowd to NASCAR's, um, less evolved fans. Oh, that didn't come out right, but that's OK. Having freelanced as a cameraman for the network's live broadcasts of both series, and being an IRL fan, I say this with confidence. TMS is a phenomenal racing venue, high on my list to visit. I'm glad you had this experience. Fans would pay 4 or 5 figures for what you got to do this day.