Saturday, March 29, 2008
I gotta say, I'm pretty jealous today. MoK of Six Degrees of Blondness is at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville VA. The weather is cold, but oh well. I've only been to Texas Motor Speedway in the Ft. Worth area - but it was a sweet deal. One of my buds was the sports editor for one of the local papers, and I went along with him at first so I could help him cover the action. He became a fan, and probably was more knowledgeable after a couple years. One year, I actually got garage access. The rest of the time, I had pit lane and media center access, which meant I watched the races from pit lane, and ate my meals at the media center.
I got to meet quite a few Nascar personalities as well. Some memories are bittersweet - Adam Petty was a nice, polite kid who was extremely personable. Kenny Irwin, Jr. was very soft spoken and a pleasure to be around when we interviewed him. Of course, I really never even got close to Dale Sr. - even my buddy never got a chance to interview him. Chocolate Meyers and Richard Childress were accessible, though. But, I saw Dale up close several times. We interviewed Jeff Burton. Wow, what a class act. We hung out with Dave Marcis and his team one year. Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett were also very great spokesmen for the sport - a pleasure to be around.
The media center is placed between the now Nationwide and now Sprint garages. So, the Claim Jumpers (once Busch Whackers) had to hustle across the road from one garage to another when one practice was over and another began. Yes, Micheal Waltrip is tall. He stood out like a sore thumb. I've got a picture of he and John Andretti, Jr. talking in the garage area - what a contrast. Dick Trickle was pretty concerned about getting a butt sucked down while he had a moment. He used to smoke in the cars, until the in car cameras caught him doing it during cautions and the powers that be decided that wasn't good publicity.
I was there the year that excessive rain caused "weepers" in the track, and drivers were wrecking when they hit the wet spots during qualifying runs. Pit security more or less broke down, and there were fans on pit road getting autographs, and drivers and crews (and me) sitting on the pit wall. I stood up on the wall to get a better picture and sitting down discovered Todd Bodine's car owner was next to me and Todd was beside him. During Busch practice, I sat with Tony Stewart's team spotting babes for them to watch as they walked by. Good times.
Texas has only recently gotten away from one groove racing. Whoever dominated the race at first generally didn't win, because track position was critical. A poor pit stop or some other normal incident would take the initial leaders out. But, I wouldn't trade it for the world. It is true you see the race far better sitting at home watching it on television, but the sights, sounds and smells are an experience I highly recommend. Qualifying is fun to watch, because you hear the single car the whole trip around the track. It's easy to tell when the driver lifts, feathers or hammers on it. Green flag starts are also very cool. There is a deep bass rumbling as all the cars work around the track, and the noise gradually builds as they enter turn four. It just keeps building slightly until the green flag drops, then the place explodes with honking, unmuffled American V8 power overcomes the senses. The smell of the fuel - like the old premium of days past, permeates the air, mingled with the smell of hot rubber from the tires. During the race, forget hearing anything unless you have some pretty good headphones on.
Texas is a cool place to be, but it isn't as distinctive as some. It is kinda reviled as a "cookie cutter" track because it is "D" shaped and 1.5 miles long, just like plenty of other tracks. There are no two exactly the same, but the races are a lot alike because the cars are set up very close to the same at each one. Martinsville is unique. It's shaped like a paper clip - long straights hooked to fairly "tight" corners. Drivers are on the gas very hard coming out of a corner, and on the brakes very hard going in. It's also considered to be more or less a "flat track" because it doesn't have steep banking (like Bristol). Stock Car Science has a far better explanation of racing at Martinsville (and racing in general - she explains the physics, mechanics and of course, the "science" far better than I). Brakes, and right side tires are critical here. Forty three cars makes for one big traffic jam all day. Combine lots of cars with mechanical failures likely, plus tempers flaring, uncomfortable racing conditions, and not much grip - well, it gets interesting.
That is why I'm really jealous. I'm jealous of anyone going to any Nascar race, but this one? Really jealous. Maureen - you have yourself a time there. It will be a lifetime experience, particularly since this is your first race in person. Enjoy!
UPDATE: It turns out Mo is going to the second race there this year. I'm still jealous, though. That hasn't changed.
UPDATE 2: I should learn to read - it's Richmond she will be attending. Oh well, it's another great short track that I'd give a left - well, maybe not.