Don’t knock it until you try it.
And so it is that I head to my first NASCAR race this weekend to get a taste of arguably the fastest growing sport in popularity in our country. This is arguable because some would not consider driving a two-ton rocket on wheels at speeds exceeding 200 mph within inches of other angry drivers for four hours straight a sport. But I figure it would be better to check out the craze for myself before making any assumptions.
The mission is simple: Find out why hundreds of thousands of fans congregate at racetracks for entire weekends to watch a bunch of suped-up dealership cars drive in circles. I want to know if the “redneck” stereotype of rebel flags and exposed beer bellies still applies or if the label is a myth. Is there more to racing than the crashes or is the near-death spectacle the real attraction?
I hear women are getting into racing these days. If this rumor proves true, I aim to find out why. Is it the drivers? Is it the competition? Is it all of the men with recreational vehicles? You will know the answer as soon as I do.
Phoenix International Raceway has been kind enough to grant The Rocky Mountain Collegian full access to a weekend of racing. Thursday was the start with the Craftsman truck series and Nextel Cup qualifying.
Today is the Busch Series, in which cars take to the track under the lights. Saturday will be the culmination of the weekend as the big boys of the Nextel Cup Series compete for 500 laps around the one-mile track.
I will be in the pits, I will be in the infield atop RV’s, I will be in the stands with the common folk. I may even be in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s trailer if I can find a way.
I want to smell the odor of high-octane fuel mixed with burning rubber and exploding engines. I want to feel how hard it is to lift a 48-ounce beer to my lips. I hope to submerge myself in a kind stranger’s pickup truck bed that has been converted into a portable pool. For one weekend I want to live the NASCAR dream and hopefully live to tell about it.