Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An unforgettable NASCAR experience


To my NASCAR Friends:

I have been taking a break from my Women in NASCAR/Motorsports column in light of personal issues that have needed my full attention. The column will resume tomorrow. It is my hope that you will find the future interviews both interesting and informative to read.

I would love, in the mean time, to share with you my recent visit to Infineon Raceway for the Toyota Save Mart 350 over Father's Day Weekend. It was actually a huge day for my husband and I - our 25th wedding anniversary. Not too mention it was Father's Day weekend. Many things to celebrate and so little time.
We had purchased our tickets months in advance. This year we even busted out and bought pit and track passes as well. Normally, we spend Friday at the track. We would go to watch qualifying as well as practice and check out the entire place to see what has changed or even remained the same. Fridays are not quite as crowded as race day, allowing you time to really move about the track. Don’t get me wrong. We love to watch the races and nothing beats hearing the smells and sounds of the engines starting and making there first lap. But the crowds are huge and it gets pretty dang hot there in Sonoma. 

But with all the things to celebrate this year, we decided to take on NASCAR Race Day 2010. We planned to leave early in the a.m. and arrive hours before the start of the race, experiencing all that Infineon Raceway had to offer us. We also had cold pit tour passes as well as the pit and track passes. We had all our gear that we needed including items we hoped to possibly get autographed, as well as sunscreen, drinks, cameras and of course, tickets!

We were a couple of miles away from the track when that famous Sears Pt. Raceway came into view. We felt the adrenaline rush start to build. The entrance was much like the one to Disneyland. The only difference was the size of the kids waiting to get in. It probably took us just as long to get in and park as it did to get there from our house. But that was okay with us. We were breathing in the whole NASCAR experience. 


About 30 min after our first visual of the track we were just outside the front entrance. We followed the signs to the handicapped parking lot, which was quite a distance from the track. We actually got to the point where the track was in our rear view mirror. Thousands of fans were attempting to get to their place in the sun, all with a different story as to how their love of NASCAR came to be. 

I think that’s one of my favorite things to do. Just hanging out in line, doing the NASCAR meet and greet. Anticipating the time we’d actually get in view of the track. People are so funny when it comes to wearing their lucky T-shirts, hats or dare I say, underwear……. (you know you do)! Occasionally you’d hear that person who has never been to a race. The excitement in their voice can travel from person to person, through the line. Everyone chiming in about their first time and how memorable it was. 

The great thing about NASCAR fans is that they are all so very friendly. You could feel their excitement as they talk about what they went through to get there. We waited in line for our ride to the track near a family that comes together at the Sonoma race for their yearly reunion. There were several generations of fans within this family but there was someone missing this time. The one woman who started this all for them. Grandma, to many, Mom to several and wife to one, Joanne.

Joanne had passed away just after their gathering in 2008. She was the type of woman who always had things scheduled down to the sunscreen they would all forget. Grandma remembered to bring things to keep the little ones occupied; Mom remembered to bring the family favorites for them to munch on throughout the day; Joanne the wife always bought her husband a new hat and shirt to wear, supporting his favorite driver, Mark Martin.

There were many colors visible within the group. Not everyone supported the same driver. But they all would banter back and forth as to whose driver was the best, and who would be taking that checkered flag at the end of the day. Joanne may not have been there in the flesh, but she was there in spirit. They had her favorite chair with her favorite driver’s flag that would soon be draped over it. They showed me past photos of their reunions at Infineon. In 2009, each leg of the family posed with with Joanne’s track chair. The years prior were always done the same way and they felt it was a tradition. They all know that she is there with them, routing on her favorite driver, Dale Sr. Now they like to think that she sits with him, watching each race, with the spirit that she was known for. 

You might ask why didn’t I mention their names, or take a family photo. Well I opted not to because I think this family could be any one of our families. NASCAR ran and still runs deep with them. In my eyes, they are the epitome of NASCAR, making NASCAR what it is today. So different from any other sports fan or sports community out there. They will always hold a special place with me when I remember my times spent at Infineon Raceway or Sears Point Raceway.

Thank you NASCAR for giving us, the fans, a place to gather and enjoy our friends and family. The time we spend at the track is not only exciting, it strengthens the bond within our family. It gives us a chance to catch up and good times to remember.

Next time you’re at a NASCAR race, look for this family. You can’t miss them. They are the ones who have figured out what NASCAR is all about: FAMILY AND FRIENDS! 

Thanks for reading! I just felt it was worth sharing, especially at a time when some may be forgetting that the value of NASCAR goes much deeper than money. Its the core of a true NASCAR fan’s existence. The feeling we experience when we share each and every moment- before, during, and after a race - with our family and friends!

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