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.