Thursday, May 23, 2013

Unleashing the Inner Redneck

Given I've always been interested in cars and motorsports then why not give it a go. On an interesting lap of the USA I've managed to arrive in Richmond, Virginia on the same weekend as the NASCAR circuit makes its way to town.
Back in Perth the advertising cry is "Friday night is speedway night". Well, here in Richmond this Friday night is Nationwide Night (with the added bonus of the Sprint Cup qualifying). I've got my reserved seat up in the grandstand and my pit pass handy for a wander through the busy bits.
Well I thought a wander through the pits. There are actually 3 levels of pit pass. Pit pass just lets you in to the pit lane area, but keeps you away from the cars, trailers and drivers.

Garage pass "cold" gets you to the trailers and drivers and garage pass "hot" gets you to the cars. Oh well, I will remember that for next time.
So in pit lane you basically watch everything from the infield which is still pretty cool. Closer to the cars, though you only see the front stretch as opposed to the whole track. But as the cars come past every 20 seconds its ok. There is still a big crowd here watching from the pits, most of whom are armed with cameras.

The day is potentially a long one with the on track action for Saturday beginning at 9am with Nationwide series practice. As I arrive about 930 I only get the tail end live, but wish I had remembered ear plugs. But I can sort that one out later in the day.

The rest of the days program is Cup series practice, qualifying for both tiers, then the Nationwide series race at night.

The race turned out to be a good race, but a three quarter mile track should do that. Brad Keselowski won in a final couple of laps sprint to the line.

After the race concluded Nelson Piquet Jr showed that besides being able to throw an F1 race, he could also throw a kick below the belt.

Sunday was just about the Sprint Cup race. As this didn't start until 730pm there was plenty of time free to wander around the "merchandise alley". Pretty much every team had a trailer (the more popular drivers with a trailer each) stocked with their merchandise. Caps, cars, shirts, flags, glasses, and a lot of random things all painted with the current number and sponsors.

Behind the merchandise trailers were the advertising areas. Toyota, Ford and Chevorlet all had large interactive car displays. Major sponsors like Sprint, FedEx, AAA, Geico, Miller had tents where you could get freebies, photos and so on. Plus you could buy food to your hearts content. Even Outback Steakhouse had a vending tent (they were sponsoring Ryan Newman for the race).

But what all these tents had at some stage was driver appearances. Most of which were throughout the Sunday afternoon and this was part of the reason for such a large crowd in a couple of hours before the race.

The NASCAR races over the weekend were both sponsored by Toyota. As a result of being in the right place at the right time of the Toyota tent in the afternoon, I was fortunate enough to be asked to join a group to cheer on the drivers after their introductions prior to the Sprint Cup race. This meant putting on a Toyota shirt, walking down a packed pit lane, and then standing on the track through most of the pre-race festivities.
The drivers would be introduced to the crowds and then walk through the gauntlet of lucky fans, then hop in the back of Toyota Tundras for a lap of the track to wave to the crowd, before being deposited back at their race cars.

This process concluded and then during the blessing and national anthem a mad dash for bags back at the Toyota tent and getting up to the seat prior to the race commencing. This process would have taken a little less time if I hadn't been 5 rows from the top of the stadium.

But the mad dash paid off, the green flag waved, and "boogity boogity boggity, lets go racin".

What followed was a highly entertaining race with the exception of Marcos Ambrose having his engine fail.

But a couple of accidents, some good racing, and another close finish. But damn does it get cold in the evenings. That beautiful clear day turns into a cold night, especially sitting out in the wind.

So I have to admit, breaking the live NASCAR virginity in Richmond, Virginia was a great way to do so. The atmosphere was fantastic (a lot more bustle than the V8s, but less hate, more fun, less teeth, more country and western,more tail gating) and the racing was great and the venue pretty good too. Its great being able to see the entire track from your seat.

Will I do this again, absolutely. Where and when will be determined by the timing of the next trip to the good ol' US of A and which races are available. Or maybe planned around which race I want to see.
Apparently Bristol, Martinsville and Dover should be on the must see list...

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