Thursday, November 08, 2007

NASCAR and Me

In many ways 2007 has been an incredibly odd year. It's been ripe with a lot of torture, but also a lot of unexpected opportunities. I got to experience one such opportunity this past Sunday. (As an author I could NOT pass this up.)

Through work, due to a new client we're dealing with, I, along with several fellow workers, and our significant others, got to spend a close up and personal day at the Texas Motor Speedway.

The Texas Motor Speedway is a huge race track facility where two of the thirty eight races run each year are held. The facility can hold 150,000 people. Traffic in the area becomes a veritable nightmare during certain times of the day for four days. And some people show up there and hold a continuous four day party till its time to drag themselves home Sunday night, and some on Monday morning.

The first thing that hit me (aside from the size of the place) was how on the outside of the long structure we had a veritable mini State Fair going on. Huge vendor displays, tricked out cars, virtual reality simulations, corn dogs, turkey legs, inflatable seat vendors, a veritable zoo of people and this was only 9:30 am! The race wouldn't start till 2:30PM.

Of course we ended up parking by Gate 1, so ended up having to walk all the way across as it turned out the Sprint/Nextel stage we were to use as a meeting point was all the way to Gate 7, so I got to take a good look at a lot of vendors. We met up with some of our fellows and then were met by our host from the Nascar Members Club. He was able to get a golf cart (which saved us miles of walking) and got us set up with a purple Cold Pass for the day. Once everyone was set, we were off.

Got a look at the helicopter landing field for drivers, the sea of RV's of weekend race fans, special tent areas for other. There's even a building with condos that overlook the racetrack.

A road and small tunnel later
and we were within the racetrack proper. Making use of the interior space, there were more RV zones, a small restaurant, pit zones, and our destination - The Garage.

The Garage is the area where the drivers and their teams set up the long rigs with their cars. Bays are also located there where they can work on the autos and also get them inspected. The whole zone is gated and has security cameras and guards. Only people with special passes are allowed in there. We got in.

Our guide pointed out the different trailers and how they'd been placed in order of ranking. All of them were plastered with the sponsor names and logos, many with plastic boxes with promo material on the drivers. Many drivers were there incognito, so if you were not someone in the know, they could walk right by you and never be noticed. We were all gawking despite our lack of Nascar knowledge, looking for drivers and other celebrities that tend to congregate at the Garage. We did see the Nascar president and several older drivers as well as many who would be in that days race.

We got to tour the pits, and even the track itself. They had a concert with a cool band sporting a mean banjo player. I was bopping all over the place! As special guests, we got to be on the physical track and but a small barrier away from the entertainment. Later the Major of Fort Worth spoke to everyone, they had some fan contest winners, Nick Nowatski (sp?) from the Dallas Mavericks, and Vince Vaughn. Then they held driver introductions. By this time our guide had moved our small group off to one side, as he knew which way the drivers would exit the place. I was 5 feet of less from them as they went past snapping away with my camera.

The whole thing was like a giant circus show~! And hour by hour you could see the stands filling up.

After inspection, the cars got pushed out to their positions by the pit crews, and the special pass people herded off the track.

We stood by the M&M pit and watched the race start. After 3 pace laps, they let them loose! The most amazing thing was the noise. While all the cars were still together, you would hear the wave of sound as it went around the track and then nothing, as they made the last bend, then wham as it came right toward you.

It was amazing! A totally awesome day. And I have tons of pictures!
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