Sunday, March 19, 2017

Drivers, Start Your Engines at the Camping World 500 Nascar Cup Race!

My parents, in their infinite wisdom, decided the best way to spend a sweltering 92 degree Sunday was viewing Turn 4 at Phoenix International Raceway for the Camping World 500 Nascar Cup Race.   Another trip that required us to arise before dawn and do a 2+ hour drive.  While I’m not really a “morning person” (I’m more nocturnal like my Mom), hitting the road early allowed me to view another spectacular sunrise.

I know you must be wondering why in the name of Swiss cheese would we leave so early when the race doesn’t start until 12:30 p.m.?  The answer, my friends, is crazy Nascar fans.  Yep, by the time we arrived at 8 a.m., the first free parking lot was nearly filled, the beers were already being guzzled, the brats were already being barbecued, and the bean bag (a.k.a. cornhole) tournaments were already underway.  Although I have attended truck races and NHRA drag races, this was my first Nascar race, so I didn’t realize the extent of the tailgating extravaganzas!  I sure learned fast.  These people transport stereos, tents, picnic tables, coolers, and grills (not the small table top or hibachi types, but the big-ass, multi-racked, huge surface grills complete with Nascar branding irons!).

After socializing with neighbors in the parking lot (they even let me play a round of cornhole), we headed over to Zoomtown, about a mile away, where they had all sorts of promotional and marketing activities going on.  For example, Camping World had a mini RV Show.  Chick-fil-A had mini stuffed toy cows and calendar give-a-ways.  I won a gift card for a free breakfast sandwich and got my picture taken with the giant Chick-fil-A blowup cow!   

Me and the Chick-Fil-A BlowUp

After renting our cushioned back “chairs”, we headed to our bleacher seats on Turn 4.   I noticed concessions at Nascar were cheaper than at the Spring Training game we attended recently.  For example, foot long hot dogs were only $10 here (instead of $12), mixed cocktails only $9 (instead of game day’s $12).  I also observed that EVERYONE has tattoos!  Doesn’t matter age, ethnicity, gender, occupation, or social standing, almost everyone I looked at had at least one tat (most had multiple).  It is amazing how mainstream they have become.  I think it’s about time I get one, too.  I’ll run that by my folks and let you know how my plan for a Rat Tat works out.

The opening ceremonies started at 11:45 a.m., and I got to see all the top drivers ride by in Chevy trucks.  We stood for the invocation and a beautiful trumpet rendition of our National Anthem, followed by fireworks, and a flyover by two F-35s out of Luke Air Force Base.  Cool stuff. 

Drivers, start your engines!  Holy cow, the noise level was deafening, even with our ear protection!  Carole King sang, “I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down”.  While I don’t think she was referring to Nascar, the description surely fits.  My whole body reverberated every time the cars roared around the turn.  They call this the Camping World 500, but because it is a short track (only 1 mile long), the 500 refers to kilometers.

The view at Turn 4, which includes "The Hill" seating section.  People hauled those tents, chairs, and coolers from the free parking areas a mile or two away

Despite the sweltering heat, the place was packed!

Normally, I find Nascar a bit anti-climatic because everything before the last lap doesn’t matter.  I guess I’m not the only one to feel this way, since Nascar actually changed its format for 2017.   It now has multiple “stages” wherein championship points are awarded each stage, making it more competitive for drivers and more exciting for fans.     

I love Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but I also have a soft spot for Martin Truex, Jr., since he hails from New Jersey.  

Me with my favorite car and driver!

Unfortunately, neither Earnhardt or Truex finished within the top 10.  Ryan Newman actually came from behind, stealing the checkered flag from Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Chase Elliott, who were in the top positions for most of the race.  And Busch’s repetitive response to reporters (who asked him not once, but 4 times about his relationship with Joey Logano) that “everything’s great” held true--no fights between the two drivers at this race!

Well, I’m tuckered out.  It’s been a long day.  Dad’s putting the generators on so Tabby and I can have air conditioning for a fitful night’s sleep again.  Talk to you soon!

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