Race Weekend Central

Walking Through the Backyards of NASCAR: Nothing Beats It

A couple weeks ago we jumped forward into Spring. The days are brighter, the snow is attempting to melt and we don’t have to don the sub-zero parka to take out the trash. It’s happening! Warmer times are coming! Perhaps the happiest indication of approaching sunny days is the opening of the short track season for auto racing. Sunday’s Goody’s 500 was a perfect example, and a timely reminder, that we can get out of the house and head to our local tracks soon. I can’t wait.


While I watched the tight action on Virginia’s paperclip, I savored the memories of my visit not so many years ago. The angle of the shadows in the corners, heavy sweatshirts on the fans and the sound of engines revving and braking faster than you think possible all combined to send me to a happy place. One where we packed a cooler for the afternoon, drove down to Connecticut and welcome the New England racing season at Thompson.


I’m sure you’ve got your favorite local spot, one that’s a tiny ¼ mile or so. The benches are blistering after decades sitting under the Summer sun. The greasy scent from the concession stand always combines with burned axle grease. The pits are separated from the general crowd by a rickety chain link fence, or maybe a pasture.


You probably have seen a few big names on their way up or down the ladder of fame. Maybe the place is run by a past Cup crew chief or car owner. The faces that pack the stands are weather worn. Families bring blankets and hot wheels. Music blares out of the tinny speakers, attempting to attract the attention of the gathered masses.


And yes, it probably is crowded that first weekend of the year, as we all escape the confines of our living rooms and TV’s. For despite the glitz and glamour that network television insists is part of a NASCAR broadcast, that’s not why we’re race fans. It’s the first time the engines turn over—even when they’re encapsulated in a 1990 beater. The squeal of tires, the smell of rubber, the anticipation of bringing your best—however bad that might be.


One of the best things about Martinsville is that the tiny track sparks our recollection of where NASCAR began, and where it still lives. When you walk to the track next to the railroad tracks, you must stroll through a sedate neighborhood full of rather ordinary houses. There are no mansions, mini-malls or apartment complexes. It doesn’t take much imagination to see one of your neighborhood race cars being built in the side yard. A car that might run at your favorite dirt track.


I’m looking forward to that first trip to one of New England’s little tracks. It’s only a couple more weeks until we run our Icebreaker, Spring Sizzler and Governor’s Cup. I’ve got my headset dusted off and seat cushion tested out. It’s not too far away. And not soon enough.

Sonya’s Scrapbook


2014 Whelan Modifieds at Thompson International Speedway


Maybe you’ve never visited a little track. You have no idea what you’re missing. There is no comparison between watching a Cup event 60 rows up at a two-mile track vs a 20 lap feature down the street. Give me that hometown feel every time.

More Jeff Gordon memories will return next week after the running of the Easter Bunny 500



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