This year we really did head out to the races along with the masses, leaving the RV home and simply attending the big show on Sunday afternoon. It allowed me to filter the race day experience through the eyes of the majority of fans who arrive, park, enjoy the whole day and reverse the order after the checkers have flown.
One of the last times we attempted this feat we arrived at 8AM and departed well after 8pm in order to avoid the horrid traffic jams. Those were the days when Bob Bahre was still the owner and things weren’t quite so polished. It seems times have changed.
Traffic In and Out of the Track
Local officials and the track have truly learned how to fill up the parking lots and empty them back out as efficiently as possible. Our drive time to get home was only 30 minutes longer than usual, with traffic moving along at 60 mph on Rte. 106. We got to our car about a half hour after Denny Hamlin popped his tires on the Granite Stripe.
No Fanatics Superstore, But Fewer T-shirts
Well, we all cheered when we heard the T-shirt haulers were returning. However, that did not mean that the vast selection of driver memorabilia was making a comeback. There were a total of ten T-shirt haulers and a small Cars 3 vendor inside the gates of the track. I do enjoy the shopping experience of the haulers over the superstore. I like chatting with the clerks about the drivers and fashion, but I do miss the variety we used to find. I guess that really is a thing of the past.
Segment Racing Does Provide Some Structure
When you don’t have the television prompting you every five minutes to ignore the ads and go check the fridge, sitting in the stands can get a little mesmerizing. Along with signaling the drivers to put the pedal down and race to the end of the segment, those of us cheering in the stands can take advantage of the predicted pause in action for a quick trip to the Kona Ice vendor for some refreshment. The segments really do work when viewing the race in person. My jury is still out on its effects to the points system, but that is a different topic.
Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid
I know that the general manager of the track, David McGrath, made a radio appearance during the race stating that ticket and camping sales were up compared to last year, but I’m not seeing the results in person. Sitting forty rows up on the front stretch, most 20-seat rows had six to eight people in them. While the popular camping grounds did appear full, there were new parking areas committed to reserve day trippers who paid a serious premium for the convenient spot. I think this made those areas immediately around the track appear fuller. Ticket sales up? I don’t know about that.
Finally, NASCAR Fans are SOMETHING SHINY
This week’s final segment is a shout out to all the great fans that created a happy crowd on Sunday.
We were in line at the ticket office and noticed a young man approach a family of Grandma, Mom, and daughter. He offered them three tickets to the race. When asked for how much he replied, “They’re free! I won them and don’t want to see them go to waste.”
Later while wandering around the haulers, a man dropped a $20 bill while shuffling ticket, wallet, and stuff then walked away. No fewer than 10 fans called for him to stop while one lady ran up to return his money. They hugged.
While walking with the horde toward the parking lots after the race, a couple of very happy fans who just bumped into each other were discussing how after attending races for twenty years, they’ve never ran into a race fan they didn’t like, no matter what name was on their T-shirt.
I rest my case. NASCAR Nation, you are the best.
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