Track Tales

Racing! (Day 2)

September 11th, 2010 by Conductor

So today I see my first Cup race in person. The Nationwide race last night was a lot of fun. Hopefully tonight will be just as good.

Got to the track – bright hot sunny, no breeze like last night.

Get my pit pass, find the tunnel after walking past it to turn 2. Walked around snapping pictures, took a panoramic shot of the track (will try to post), then sat on the pit wall for a bit. Camera batteries are dying. Head back through the tunnel, sit for a spell again, then headed out to check out the buffet.

5:25pm. At the Scott’s Turf Builder Green Flag Zone. Free food, free beer (didn’t partake) free cold water (yes!). More importantly, seats and a break from all this walking. Sadly(?) I seem to have missed Night Ranger. LOL.

Gonna see if the ice bucket with the water is still there.

Observations of the crowd:
A disturbing number of fans here, men and women alike seem to have no idea about the dangers of too much sun exposure and the very real risk of skin cancer.

Frankly I want a super soaker full of sunscreen to blast these folks. Of course they’ll probably develop lung cancer or sclerosis anyway, but I’m not about to mention that in this town.

Anyway, even the more… rural among the crowd are pretty friendly. Could be my 3 hat, which I’m sporting proudly.

Funny thing is – think of all the people here, the only ones wearing ties are the color guard, and the ESPN on air crew in pit studio and up in the broadcast booth. Those not wearing jeans are in khakis or cargo shorts.

6:15pm. Traffic under the stands is picking up as people make their way to their sections. The music has stopped. Which is good since it was too loud and the audio system here is not very good. The only noise I want to hear tonight is from the flyover, the crowd, and the cars.
There’s decent cross section of the world here: saw JPM’s Colombian contingent with their flag – I think they go to all his races. A larger number of black folks than I expected, but that’s good – I feel a little less like a minority. Overall, I just feel like a race fan, which is as it should be.

Of course just as I type that, two dudes behind me had a redneck moment.

I still don’t see the point of getting drunk before the race; plenty of time to do that afterward. To each his own, just don’t spill, spit or puke on me and it’s all good.

The pre-race stuff once I took my seat was nice, the now traditional 9/11 remembrance was tasteful, and not the stylized Hyper-Americana extravaganza I was worried it might be, and fully expect it to be next year for the 10th anniversary.
“Never Forget” isn’t something I need to be reminded of; I drive past ground zero going to and from work. I’ve seen it go from a smoldering pile to almost being just another Manhattan construction site. There’s still a hole in my sky where the towers were; it’s slowly being filled in by the new ones, but it’ll never be the same. Then there are the other changes, which aren’t as noticeable, but are actually more tangible than the physical scars on the city. In a big way, the terrorists achieved some terrible goals, and not simply the lives they took during the attacks. They made us change the way we live – from the TSA and Homeland Security to the way every incident is a potential terrorist threat. We still have our racing though, and that has remained largely unchanged, from swamp buggies to stock cars to funny cars and indy cars, sippy holes, corkscrews, carousels to tri-ovals to eighth-mile drag strips, we flock to see men and women strap in, fire ’em up and run ’em until they throw the flag or it won’t go anymore.

Anyway, on to the race. It was a good race, just not the outcome I’d hoped to see. Honestly, I think the last time I saw Dale Jr. run as badly as he did during this race was his rookie year at Martinsville where I think he spun out about a hundred times or so. The setup was flat out wrong. I don’t know what they did to it after qualifying, but it was about a wrong as you can get and not have the tires on the wrong side of the car.

The setup and post race stuff to introduce the Chase field was as clunky to watch in person as I suspected it would be. I filed out with it the crowd, stopped by a couple of vendors to pick up some souvenirs, then got in line for the shuttle bus back to town. Now that there was a long, long line, but I got to chat with some fellow race fans from different parts of the country. It didn’t start to drizzle until we almost on the bus thankfully. It was an annoying drizzle by the time we got off though, so the walk to the hotel, albeit brief wasn’t as nice as it could have been. All told, a fun day, and I didn’t think about work at all, which was exactly what I needed. Better still I didn’t have to travel back until Monday, since I planned to stay a day after the race. No need to stay up and pack my stuff or plan the trip back.

Sunday was uneventful by design. I watched the F1 Race, ate something, then headed out to home depot for some packing tape and bungee cords (I had a box I needed to reseal and needed to replace the worn out elastic band on my luggage carrier with proper bungees). I then picked up a Pizza from Pizza Hut, and some sandwich making essentials from Kroger, and headed back to the Hotel to pack, relax, and basically enjoy the day.

Monday was the return trip, which was uneventful, sunny, and basically stress free. A stop just inside Delaware for a bite to eat was all I needed to fortify me for the remainder of the trip back to Brooklyn.

I definitely want to visit Richmond again, as it’s a great place to watch a race, but I also want to see more races at other tracks too, so it may be a year or two before I get back.

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Racing! (Day1)

September 10th, 2010 by Conductor

So my first trip to a NASCAR race. Richmond International Raceway – Three Quarter mile D shaped oval.

Saturday is the Sprint Cup event, race 26 of the season and the one in which the 12 teams that will compete in the chase for the Sprint Cup will be determined. I don’t expect any change in who’s in compared to last week, but there may be some movement at the top and bottom of the top 12 in points.

But first things first . Today’s Friday, and I’m here to see the Nationwide Race. They’re running their new car here for the first time, and I have to say it looks a whole hell of a lot better and more car-like than both the asymmetrical lumpen sculptures the old cars are, and the slab sided brick on wheels that is the current Cup car.

Having never been to an oval track before, and only seeing brief shots of what the outside of the place looks like, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once you’re close enough to make out details, it really looks like an incomplete football stadium from the outside. No walls to speak of, just steel girders everywhere.  For you subway riders, it’s kind of like the elevated tracks  many of the lines run on, but instead of rails and platforms sitting on the steel framework, its bleachers. Lots and lots of bleachers. That said, the highest row of bleachers at Richmond still isn’t as high as the nosebleed section in Madison Square Garden, or the cheap seats in old Shea Stadium.  Don’t know about New Shea (yes it’s technically called Citi Field right now, but I refuse to use that name), but the modest height is a good thing. From what I could tell there probably isn’t a bad seat in the house in terms of being able to see the action on the track as it happens. Although if you want to watch pit stops without the aid of the rather sizable screens atop the scoring pylon, you’ll want to be on the front stretch as I was.

The race itself was pretty good, with Kevin Harvick’s #33 being the class of the field and taking the win.

The one real knock I have about the place is the parking situation. The lots are very roughly designated, and there’s no signage at all to aid you in locating your car after the race is over. The light towers make it fairly easy to see stuff, but they’re all identical. I had a general direction I knew the car should be in, but honestly did not have a clue as to where I parked. I was not alone in this, although I do believe I was the only one with a WRX at the event. To give you an idea of what was going on as hundreds of us strode out into the darkness hoping to find our cars, watch the Subaru ad below.

Now take that ad, remove the rocks and the echo, and replace it with grass and gravel. It is also dark, but illuminated by a handful of light towers. Oh, and instead of rocks, there’s rows and rows of cars, vans, and pickups (At a NASCAR Race in Virginia? NO WAY! Yes way, and some of them did have lift kits that instantly made you contemplate a) How epic will the inevitable rollover be… and b) If it wasn’t for the ridiculous pinion angle on those drive shafts, and those four link bars in the way, I could drive under that red  one…).
Anyway, the point is they need to do a better job of marking the lots – flags with row & spot #’s perhaps – so that people don’t need to set a GPS waypoint to find their car in the dark after the race. Traffic to and from the track wasn’t bad, but I think I’ll take the shuttle bus to the track for tomorrow’s Cup race.

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