May 31, 2011
I attended the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway this past Sunday. This is interesting only because I have lived within minutes of an official Nascar Stadium for twenty years of my life and this was the first race I'd ever attended. These are my thoughts on the whole experience:
The tailgating portion of the race is what you make of it. Take your family and closest friends out to an open field and cook-out, play games, have some drinks, etc. After you have a nice sunburn, you walk about a mile to the race-track to see hundreds of merchandise tents and several stages with live music. Just when you think you can't walk any further, you arrive at your seats and stand for the national anthem. At "home of the brave," a stealth bomber flies overhead. Everyone gets pumped and then comes the most famous sentence in racing "Gentlemen, start your engines!"
They crank the cars and the crowd goes wild. The race begins with a few rolling laps behind a pace car to get the drivers in order. The race officials drop the green flag all the cars roar past. I would compare the decibel level to that of a rock concert standing relatively close to a loud speaker. I suggest ear plugs to help drown out the noise because 600 laps of an engine's growl can give you a pounding headache if you aren't prepared. Don't expect to have any great conversations during the race either. It's difficult enough just to hear your own voice, much less your friend sitting next to you.
Suddenly, a driver will crash and everyone will stand up to point out the wreck. It's several intense seconds followed by several dull minutes of pace car action and clearing debris off the track. After a handful of some pretty intense moments, many mind-numbing laps, the race draws to a close with the last few laps being the most intense, of course. Each racer speeds up to try to win the race going an excess of 170 mph while fans cheer for their favorite racer as the checkered flag flies. Once the race is over, make haste to your car to avoid the thousands of other people leaving the race at the same time. Try not to have a cow if you have to wait an hour to get out of the parking lot though.
All in all, Nascar is a very enjoyable experience so long as you go into it with an open mind and try to keep the stereotyping down to a minimum. The tailgating part is great, the racing portion is semi-entertaining for someone who knows very little about it, and the 'people-watching' is fantastic.
'Down With OBT? Yeah, You Know Me.'