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Now that’s NASCAR racin’

by Rachel Brear

My boyfriend Scott admitted a few weeks ago that he was a closet NASCAR fan. Before I insisted on an intervention I decided maybe I shouldn’t judge before I knew what NASCAR was all about. I reluctantly agreed to attend a race sometime if he wanted to go, so he took that as a green light to go ahead and buy tickets to the next race and surprise me with news of an impromptu road trip for the upcoming weekend. That man of mine, he’s a doer, not a waiter. We were set to go to the 2007 Dodge Avenger 500 in Darlington, South Carolina.

“It’s the ‘Track Too Tough to Tame,”‘ Scott said, ‘”The Lady in Black.’ I’ve always wanted to see a race there. And we have fourth row seats!”

I was impressed there were still fourth row seats available on such short notice. Little did I know there’s a reason they were still available.

They say the track is too tough to tame because, unlike most oval racetracks, Darlington is an egg-shaped oval. I believe that makes it difficult not only for the drivers but for their crews to configure the cars to make it effective on both ends of the track. “Lady in Black” refers to the white wall that becomes black at the end of the race due to cars earning their “Darlington Stripes” from running into it. It’s also notoriously cruel to the cars’ tires, since it’s one of the only asphalt tracks on the circuit that has yet to be repaved.

It dumped rain on us the entire trip down. When we made it to Darlington the rain slowed down so we were optimistic and tried to find parking. Most of the street was already taken and the lots we saw were already full. We noticed people pulling into a church parking lot and decided to follow them. A large man with a Cheshire Cat smile walked up to the window and demanded $20. I wondered if he was an elder of the church or if he was just some random dude in a golf cart trying to scam money from NASCAR fans.

The people we parked next to were entertaining. There was a couple from Myrtle Beach who seemed to be thoroughly boozed up and another few people from Raleigh seemed equally inebriated. We opened the truck doors to be greeted by yelping and yeehawing. When in Rome, we figured, and opened our first beers of the day.

One of the guys who ran the lot asked our “party” to not drink while using the church’s space.

“I personally don’t care,” the man said, “I know you’ve got alcohol on you but some of the people who belong to the church don’t want to see it.”

The lady from Myrtle Beach asked, “Is there someone we should look out for and hide it when he comes?”

The man looked up to the sky and said, “Ma’am, you can’t hide it from Him.”

The lady from Raleigh chimed in, “What kinda church is this anyway? If it’s Baptist I’ll pour my beer out now. If it’s Mormon, I’ll have three more. If it’s Catholic, I’m finishing the case.” Har har har.

The skies opened again and rain poured down for the next few hours. That’s what you get when you mess with Him, I guess.

We found out the race was canceled around 8:45 p.m. and would resume the next day at 1:00 p.m. It was pretty sad watching drenched and drunk fans with water trickling off their mustaches slinking back to their trucks.

The next day we parked at the church again, and by the grace of God the Cheshire parking attendant didn’t make us pay the $20 again.

While walking to the track, I realized NASCAR T-shirts crack me up. The garish shirts have no white space on them; they’re covered collar to sleeve with color, writing, autographs, pictures of favorite drivers and, of course, flames. Same goes for the baseball hats. Some fans were really into it, with matching hats, coolers, shirts, jackets and lanyards. Scott and I were newbies in comparison.

We found our seats and waited for the race to begin. When the mothers of the drivers announced “Gentlemen, start your engines!” a rush came over me and I was so excited to see these cars going fast. Suddenly the movie Talladega Nights made sense to me, besides the obvious “Shake and Bake” bit and Will Ferrell just being awesome. The pace car set out and 43 cars followed. They made a couple of laps around the track and then began to race.

I was set up with my camera to videotape the cars first lap. After the sixth car flew past, the wind they created made a wave of rubber and asphalt that pelted all of us in the first few rows. By the time the race was over I was covered head to toe with rubber. Some advice: Don’t sit in the fourth row at a NASCAR race.

I learned cars racing at 180 miles per hour is freakin’ cool. I also like the product placement all over them, which made it easier for me to describe which car I was talking about instead of having to know which driver drove which numbered car.

“I think Snickers just hit Home Depot. No, I take that back, Domino’s blew out his tire and DuPont is in the lead.”

I don’t think I’ll be watching the races on TV every Saturday, but I will go to another race someday. I get it now. And damn it, I like it.

If you wanna tell Rachel why you heart racin’, send her an email at Rachel@yesweekly.com

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