• JP

First NASCAR race!

I came across, and started watching the NASCAR Races on YouTube when I was about to turn 12 years old. I loved listening to the announcers talk about the physics, and the science behind making 3,400 pound cars go 200 miles an hour. I was just so fascinated by it. I always played NASCAR Games on my old Wii Console, and made custom setups on my car, to make it faster, and faster.

As I watched it, and became a bigger fan of the sport, I really wanted to go see a NASCAR Race in person. When my Grandparents asked me what I wanted for my 12th birthday, I told them that I wanted Kurt to take me to the NASCAR race that April in Texas.

They were skeptical of me traveling to another state at first, but after a few weeks of begging, and badgering, I finally got my wish. My Grandparent’s asked Kurt if he wanted to do it, and of course, he was thrilled to. We had two tickets that put us just before the start/finish line at the ‘Great American Speedway’.

There are very few instances where I have been more excited in my life, than when Kurt pulled into the driveway, to pick me up, and head to the Lone Star State. It was April 14th, 2012. We took Interstate 35 all the way down south to the big speedway. It was a three-hour drive to TMS from my Grandparent’s house near Shawnee, Oklahoma, but it felt like an eternity. I still remember topping the hill, and being able to see the massive speedway venue towering into the Texas sky over the trees. It was beautiful to see.

The grandstands, the glass suites, the spotter’s stand, and the Lone Star Tower office building standing proud outside of turn 2. There were billboards, and corporate signs all the way around the racetrack. Above those billboards, if you looked closely, you could see the top of the catch-fences in the corners of the racetrack from the interstate. The racetrack itself looked tiny compared to the massive, stadium-like atmosphere around it. The racetrack is actually on a hill. The track was banked 24’ degrees in the corners, which was why the catch fences towered two or three stories high in the air.

There were thousands of people camping in anything from RV’s, tents, big, luxurious motor-coaches, to camping in the bed of their pickup trucks around the racetrack. On race weekend, NASCAR speedways become massive cities. When you took the exit from the interstate called “Earnhardt Drive”, and turned onto the main road to go to the track called “Lone Star Circle”, it looked like a carnival, or a county fair, with a stadium in the middle. People were at the side of the road, with their barbecue grills, and tailgating gear selling homemade hotdogs, ribs, fried chicken, and of course, tons of beer. They had all kinds of good Texas-sized dishes for sale. Die-hard NASCAR fans are some of the coolest people you will ever meet. They have all kinds of great stories to tell from going to the races over the years, and wild experiences that you would never believe possible. I met one fan that had been going to Texas every time NASCAR comes to town, since they hosted their first race in 1997.

There is always something to do at a NASCAR event weekend. The parking lots at Texas are miniature towns all by themselves! Unless you have a car that was pretty unique, and easy to pick out, it is easy to get lost in the parking lot after the race, when you are looking for your car. Most malls aren’t even that big! After you walk through the small city of cars, you arrive at the midway.

There are souvenir trailers with t-shirts, hats, banners, die-cast cars, and just about any NASCAR gear you could imagine. They even have actual race cars on display at the manufacturer’s display tents that you can climb in, and take a picture with! It’s like a massive mall that wraps around the entire racetrack. It is a maze of trailers, tents, booths, car displays, and people all the way around. I will warn you; don’t go there if you don’t plan to spend lots of money; because money goes fast at the souvenir midway.

At the middle of the souvenir midway, there are wide walkways that lead to the entry gates. They scan your ticket, and then you are officially in the Great American Speedway!

Once you get underneath the grandstands, it is like a second souvenir midway, but a tad smaller. There’s more food than a man could ever eat! Then, the moment of truth; you walk through to one of the entryways to the grandstands, and behold the mile-and-a-half beauty!

It is allot bigger than it looks on television, picture, or video. It is so massive, that the cars look like tiny dots racing down the back straight-away. The anticipation before the race starts is the greatest felling ever. The teams roll their cars out of the garage and to the pits first thing in the morning, and it is a beautiful sight to see. About 40 minutes before race time, they call the magic words over the speakers around the racetrack; “It is time, for pre-race ceremonies to begin!” After the National Anthem, and the Invocation, comes the call to fire engines.

I still remember my heart racing when they pointed all of the tv cameras toward a broadcaster with a microphone in the pits. The teams started taking the tarps off of the cars, and let the reflective paint schemes shine in the Texas sun. The broadcaster said “It is time, for the most famous words in motorsports! Please welcome you’re Grand Marshal, 2-time rally-cross champion, and Nitro-Circus founder, Travis Pastrana! Travis Pastrana saying “Gentlemen, START, YOUR, ENGINES!” is something I will never forget. Forty-three engines fired up, and practically shook the ground underneath them. It is so exciting feeling the vibration in your chest, when these cars fire up. When the lights on the pace car come on, they begin rolling onto the racetrack, and getting ready to race.

Every time the field of cars pace by, the anticipation grows. You know that they are going to start racing at any second.

When the cars are lined up two-by-two in the correct qualifying order, NASCAR calls the all-clear, and the lights on the pace car turn off. When the lights go out on the pace car, this means that next time by, they will start racing. I got out my camera, and started filming. Everyone did. I still have that video on my old backup files from the computer we had at the time. The pace lap seems to last forever. But sure enough, the pace car cuts off the track, and goes backstage to the pits, while the cars line up, and wait for the flagman to drop the green flag, signaling them to hit the “loud pedal”, and start racing.

When the flag drops, all hell breaks loose! It is louder than you could ever imagine, until you experience it in real life. As the cars race off into turn 1, and fly down the back straight-away for the first time, you can hear it getting louder, and louder, as they accelerate to full speed.

Watching 43 cars race by at full, 200 mile-per-hour speed, is excitement that you just simply can’t get anywhere else. You can feel the vibration of the motor in your seat, and a mini “shockwave” of air from the force of the car tearing by when you sit close like we did.

The 2012 Samsung Mobile 500 was my first time at a NASCAR event. I have been watching the sport, and going to at least one major race per year ever since then.

Thank you to Kurt for the drive, my Grandparent's for the tickets, and everyone who supports my art, and passion for racing.

I highly recommend Texas Motor Speedway, as it is an incredibly fan-friendly venue. That is definitely helpful for first-time race go-ers. Check out tickets at TexasMotorSpeedway.com.