Talladega Nights: The Birth of a NASCAR Fan

No, I'm not talking about your cousin-in-law's baby sister's daughter's newborn. I'm talking about me. I trekked from Houston to Talladega Superspeedway last weekend to witness the spectacle that is NASCAR.

I wanna go fastHere's some context for you, the folks who didn't realize that I'm a racing fan. It shouldn't be a surprise. My dad's a gear head. And, my mom, who handles her pick-up like A.J. Foyt does an Indy car, says I've been in an hurry since I got here. I had a Richard Petty toy car when I was a midget. I blew adults off of the kart track in BR at 7 and drove a manual Honda Civic at 9. I've amassed a few moving violations since then and frequently daydream about a life as a race driver. Just ask JT how many times I beg him to start a rally team with me. So, when Mic emailed me about an extra ticket for his family's annual pilgrimage to the spring race at Dega (they've been ten years running), I confirmed in 8 minutes. That was nearly six months ago.

Serious NASCAR fanI've been looking forward to the race since I locked in the ticket. My enthusiasm manifested itself in many ways, mostly in the form of email to The Mic. What do I need to bring? How do I learn more about NASCAR? Do I need my own scanner? Should I bring my own tent? Which driver can I cheer for without getting beat up or crowding the bandwagon? I thought a Lucky Dog was something to eat? What are we going to do for two days at a campsite in the middle of nowhere if the race isn't until Sunday?

That last question was slightly rhetorical in that I thought that I already had a pretty good idea about what was going to happen. Wrong. I had no idea. My first thought was constant beer drinking followed by a search for a clean potty with a view bites of stadium food mixed in was correct, but that was just the tip of the ice cube.

NOTE: Reader beware! Disturbing tales follow. However, you may still find yourself pricing flights to BHM for next year's race.

Day 1

A sea of trailersThe Mic got me up-to-speed after graciously picking me up from the Birmingham airport, which delayed his beer drinking by 90 minutes. I was still giddy from excitement after finally being paroled from the SWA circus on my plane. I seem to recall vague notions of things like "redneck Mardi Gras," "you're not going to believe...," "boobs come to you," etc.

Little D, The Mic's oldest brother, met us on the highway, gave us our tickets and led us into the campground. This ain't the KOA joint that you used to go to when you were a kid. The camping area across the street from the track stretches for a solid mile and is at least a quarter mile deep. We encountered many a "yeah ha" and a few taunts - I was still in my CubeFarm garb - as we made our way to the camp site.

Tough crowdThe place was packed. Every square inch of camping space was occupied by every sort of vehicle and camping mechanism on the planet. Fortunately Little D and posse arrived on Wednesday to stake out the same spot they've occupied each of the past ten years. Good thing. Race fans continued to arrive throughout the evening in school bus RVs, tour buses, pick up trucks and semi tractors. Late arrivals were forced to run laps around the site in search of clear patch or a kindred spirit.

Little D assisted an elderly couple with parking their mini van behind one area of our site because the gentleman is a Jeff Gordon fan; Gordon fans catch shit from everyone no matter how old they are. Talladega is Dale, Jr. territory after all.

I continued gawking as folks continued poured into the already packed house. It was like someone had dumped a gallon of water into a bucket of NASCAR gremlins. "Holy shit! That's a lot of people," said JB, Master of the Obvious, which elicited, "Just wait til tonight when everyone is cruising around in their trucks," came the reply.

Huh. People still do that? Are they going to set up a Taco Bell in here so that all of them can go hang out in the parking lot and act cool and stuff? Nope. But, stripper poles were abundant; we'll have to come back to that.

The Rand Man loves him some dirt trackThe Mic, Little D and I headed over to Talladega Short Track to catch some dirt track action. The only I knew about dirt track racing at that time was that Kenny Rogers did it in Six Pack. I learned a lot during the next few hours. Ear plugs are key. One should wear a hat to keep the Bama mud out of one's afro. It is unlikely that you'll get a clean shot at a car since there's enough dirt flying through the air to fill up the Grand Canyon.

Day 2

The Busch Series race (Aaron's 312) was Saturday. As I understand it, Busch is like the Triple A of NASCAR. It's the same track and the cars are similar. Many of the Nextel drivers race in this one, kinda like pro NBA players playing in the Olympics.

The race was really exciting as far as minor league action goes. Kyle Busch, not the driver you name when asked for your favorite driver by a potential client, totalled his car after Stewart nudged him. He hit the wall and slid down the track on his roof before rolling about six times once his car hit the grass. The it caught on fire. He hopped out of the car and waved and rode off in the ambulance. He raced on Sunday, too. He wrecked again. I bet State Farm drops him. Anyway, Bobby Labonte end up winning and was followed by Tony Stewart in second.

Saturday night brought a heightened level of debauchery. Boobs (tits and dorks) paraded down the street. Like Mic said, they came to us. But, I'm not so sure that was a good thing. For example, there was one lady who was built like a lineman and would release her twins if she felt you look in her direction. No way that just happened. We decided to stroll through the campsites to easy our troubled eyes.

As I mentioned, stripper poles were sprinkled throughout the maze of trailers, tents, kiddie pools and Camaros. Poles in search of dancers. I thought the dudes hosting the poles had watched Field of Dreams a few too many times. Where in the Wide World of Sports were they going to find chicks to dance? I'm dumb.

We rolled up to "Live Nudes," a place our Friday night scouting party had located, and joined the throng (tee hee) of guys and girls craning their necks to get a look a the dayncers. There was a lady in a Marine officer's hat gyrating semi-rhythmically around the pole as another lady teamed up to put on a show. Imagine a bad prom scene from an 80's movie where two white girls are "dancing" with each other. Light on sexy. Heavy on awkward.

The Marine left the stage, but the her friend kept at it. That's when things got interesting. Spectators had been throwing beads and some money at the stage for a while. Then some jackass threw a beer bottle. The party ended with the MC promising $200 in reward money for information leading to the ass whipping of the bottle tosser. Check please.

Day 3

Gettin our $8 worthSunday morning arrived on time. Breakfast was light so the Rand Man and I vowed to attack some eight dollar turkey legs at the track. I lost the rosham and had to pay for the turkey legs. Here we are getting our $8 worth. Mmmm - turkey legs. I can still taste it if I burp just right.

The Nextel race was more impressive than the Busch race. The cars were faster, louder and faster (yeah, I know). It was evident that the drivers were more skilled and somewhat more conservative as well. I found myself in the midst of a nap late in the race when everyone was driving around in a single file line. They got around the track in a hurry, but no one wanted to challenge Jeff Gordon, pole sitter and lap leader.

Having a scanner made this type of racing bearable. We were able to listen in as Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton and other drivers worked with their spotters to form short lived alliances so that someone could try to unseat the 24 car.

In the end, a caution flag came out and broke the monotony. Gordon ended up winning but not before the field tried to reel him in. Tony Stewart was wrecked as he made a move to the high side of the track coming out of Turn 2. He was not shy about expressing his disappointment in not finishing in the Top 5, which he would have had the accident not happened.

Oh, well. Sometimes you eat the bear. And, sometimes, well the bear, he eats you. I guess that's racing.

Will I go back next year? Hell, yeah. Faster that you can say, "sumbitch." I hear tell that there may be a plan to visit Texas Motor Speedway in the Fall. I'm in.

1 comment:

MicNola said...

Nice Job JB, just a bit surprised of no mention of JPM!!! I've got the boobie shots on the rig, but not uploaded yet...1 out of every 10, or should I say 2 of of every 20 are worth seeing, the others, well, that's not so good. 24=70 (dollars, that is).