Chasing Checkers chased a whole different kind of Checkers this weekend…. the ones that fly at a racetrack at the end of, in this case, 600 miles of racing in the hot, Southern sun.
For the first time in many, many years I attended a NASCAR race on Sunday as a “fan” and sat in the stands. Until late 2008, I was at about half of the races every year for work, but usually ended up in the pits, in a suite high above the track, or, if I was lucky, from my hotel room having completed the VIP tours, etc. and getting to leave the track before the race really got underway. Needless to say, sitting among the true fans, breathing in the fumes and packing my ears full of earplugs was something I hadn’t done in a really long time, but I had a blast, especially since I had free tickets, didn’t pay to park, and missed all traffic coming and going to the track.
We didn’t want to tailgate, or see the pre-race stuff, and we definitely did NOT want to sit in traffic, so we left for the track at about 5:15, only 45 minutes before race time. We parked for free as close as one can park to the track (near the dirt track) and walked right in, and right to our seats, with about 15 minutes to spare. We got to hear the anthem, and the bagpipes, and watched the stealth bomber flyover. So sure, we didn’t get to spend a day in the sun getting burned or eating fried track food, but we had a BLAST, and that’s definitely the way I plan to attend my next race! We even left the race with 100 laps to go, and made it home in time to watch the crazy finish, and hear my most beloved crew chief and big fat cheater Chad Knaus drop the F-bomb on live TV. (Though, it wasn’t his fault…. Fox broadcast a live scanner feed, and if you know ANYTHING about Mr. Knaus, it’s his absolute adoration of the F-word. And he can use it like a CHAMP!)
So…. the fun part of the post, where I compare and contrast a NASCAR race experience to that of a Charlotte Checkers hockey game.
- Wilson was at the NASCAR race, working for the track (I assume?). Before it started, he was on the big screen and coming in over the P.A. system. For a moment, I thought I was at a Checkers game, but then I remembered it was really hot, the fans were much more… um… colorful…. and the smell of gas fumes filled the air. But honestly, it’s not a Charlotte sporting event without Wilson on the mic!
- As I was watching the race, I decided that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the Sidney Crosby of NASCAR. Except, Sidney Crosby is actually really really talented, and Junior hasn’t won a race in forever, and is hardly championship material, but his fans still think he walks on water. So now, I’m not sure who to compare Junior to…. the not-so-successful son of a legend… I mean, it’s got to suck to be an Earnhardt and not be that good, and to constantly have the spotlight on him because he IS an Earnhardt. Maybe that’s how Jared Staal feels…
- Speaking of Junior, one of his fans was sitting a few seats down from us, and she stood up and cheered every single lap. Until lap 250ish, or whenever we left. She didn’t miss once…. shaking her fist, cheering, standing up…. over and over again. That, dear readers, is hardcore dedication!
- I had two people give me thumbs up and tell me that the Checkers were awesome…. I’m so glad I decided to represent the hockey team and not a NASCAR driver at a NASCAR race. It was more fun getting that reaction from people instead of being just another one of thousands in the crowd with a 24, 48, or 88 on my tshirt.
- Race fans are really gross to look at shirtless. And I saw a LOT of shirtless men. I’m glad it’s too cold in the TWCA to bare one’s midriff (unless you are a Checkmate, apparently), because nobody needs to see the things we saw at the NASCAR race on Sunday.
- Race food is disgusting. I realize I’m a sort of vegetarian (I do make the occasional exception for turkey bacon and hot wings…) but those giant turkey legs are DISGUSTING. We watched a guy in front of us gnaw on his for a really long time, ripping the fatty parts off with his grubby fingers then licking them clean…. big giant YUCK. I hope they never sell those things at Checkers games!
- The GIANT high def screen at the track was SO AMAZING. The clarity was unreal, the quality was unbelievable, and if it wasn’t for the excessive use of advertisements, I would have been content to just watch it and not the track, but I guess that would defeat the purpose of going to see a race in person.
- I love NASCAR scanners. It’s like Zack Boychuck miced up during practice, but it’s all the time! The best quote of the night was a rather metaphysical one from Kasey Kahne who asked, “Why are we here.” Nobody on his radio channel answered his rather honest question…. and really, at a NASCAR race, why ARE we here? Isn’t it just as good on TV?
- Watching the last hundred laps at home reminded me that Tripp Tracey might not be the worst color commentator in all of sports. That award should actually go to Darrell Waltrip, though at least Waltrip doesn’t talk about texting the dad’s of the drivers, or other completely useless bits of information, but still, he’s so biased and jerky in the things he says. I can’t wait till ESPN takes over, because their play by play and color guys are WAY better!