Deana Bianco | December 6th, 2007
This year a friend talked me into going to America’s favorite sport NASCAR. Now I know, a bunch of cars going around in a circle round and round for 500 laps doesn’t sound so appealing but it was an excuse to take a road trip down to southern Virginia and experience the hospitality of the south.
NASCAR is everywhere in America BUT New York City. To be honest, I didn’t realize the appeal of it or how widely spread it is until I tried booking a hotel room a month and a half before the Martinsville race. Everywhere was booked and I am talking everywhere. Planning a trip was never such a hassle. I was calling hotels to get leads on motels only to find everywhere was just booked up. I ended up getting a place an hour and a half from the race.
My buddy started prepping me up for NASCAR. When I would come over to his Williamsburg apartment, he would put it on and get excited. It seemed like a big yawn. I couldn’t even name one driver past or present nor did I really care.
Virginia was lovely la, la, la. But the excitement and hilarity of it transpired when the day before the race at our hotel, the parking lot of the motel was crammed with people drinking and talking the race – mind you the race started the next day. My buddy and I went to the local haunts in the area and when we came back at 1 in the morning, the fans were still, sure enough, drinking in the parking lot, having a jolly ol’ time, decked out in their finest NASCAR apparel, cars smothered in statements like, “Martinsville or bust.”
I heard the fans rise and shine at 6 that morning storming through the hallways of the motel, getting ready to head out to Martinsville (how die hard). Driving up to the track, I was kind of excited and the parking lot made me both crack up and feel at home. There were trailers everywhere with NASCAR flags waving in the air and cardboard cut outs of the drivers. The highlight? The porta-potty with a paper plate taped to it that said ‘private shitter.’
We walked through the maze of cars to the arena. I could feel goose bumps forming on my arms just looking into the pit at all the racecars and their pit crews. It was then I fell in love. We walked to our seats surrounded by diehard fans talking about facts and figures of the race. They introduced all the drivers, most American handsome looking boy next-door types who waved and then stood in the back of trucks that ushered them around the track parading them to all the fans. It was great.
I asked the guy next to me when I would know when to put in my earplugs (A MUST IF YOU LOVE YOUR HEARING) and he chuckled sipping his bud light saying, “Oh you’ll know.” They started their engines and it was then I knew, put in the earplugs.
The warm up began and the pace car, the car that limits the speed that the drivers can go, led the cars around the track. When the pace car proceeded off the track, the race began. Wow, was it amazing. I totally got it. Everything clicked. Cars were bouncing off each other, racing up to speeds of around 170 miles an hour on the straight away. Martinsville, which seats over 85,000 people, is one of the smallest tracks so the cars are almost on top of each other the whole time and as my friend put it the race is, “A New York City traffic jam at 150 miles an hour.” It was remarkable.
Like I said before, the fans are die hard, and don’t take no bs. Everyone has their favorite driver and their least favorite. The guy next to me sincerely (and I really mean that) held up both middle fingers to driver Juan Pablo Montoya every time he passed. I thought the gesture would end after the first 25 laps but sure enough almost every other lap he held up those middle fingers setting his curse on the driver. I also enjoyed the Dale Earnhardt (who tragically died in a crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001) impersonator who spent the race walking around the stands waving and standing for photos. Priceless.
Another highlight with the fans were the abundance of terrible tattoos. I couldn’t even tell you how many confederate tats I saw and only to out beat that, how many NASCAR tats adorned the skin of the fans.
But yes, I walked away a fan and now watch it on tv. I learned the rules of the game, really quick and after lap 30, I was hooked and I couldn’t keep my eyes off my driver – Jeff Gordon. The race ended leaving Jimmie Johnson (who did the most amazing burn out ever) the winner after several caution flags were thrown. I was beside myself in happiness just being able to witness such an amazing event. I am already planning on attending a couple races next season.