To get two seats together I had to book terribly early. Our seatmate was not as lucky to be seated by his date. Consequently, while waiting for the band to perform, we struck up a conversation. When the topic of conversation turned to racing - as it usually does when my husband and I are involved - my seatmate revealed he was a NASCAR fan.
Where some fans live, it would not be unusual to meet another NASCAR fan at a non-NASCAR event, but it is most certainly a rarity to me where I live.
Our conversation gained momentum and excitement as soon as NASCAR was mentioned. He said he was a fan and I belted out that I was a “NASCAR writer” which I quickly rescinded and corrected myself by saying I was a writer who wrote about NASCAR, a columnist really.
This man had grown up going to the races in the Northeast, venues like Pocono, Watkins Glen, and Dover. In the late 1980s he moved to Atlanta and was able to enjoy many season-ending races at that track. In addition he enjoyed races at Bristol, Talladega, and Darlington.
Inevitably I asked who his favor driver is to which the man replied “Mark Martin. Always was and still is.” I can respect that. We both agree that Martin is the best of the best of those who have never won a Cup. That Martin is “a gentlemen driver who still won.”
The man recalled glorious races he watched at Atlanta when it all came down to the wire with Earnhardt and Martin. Being a Martin fan, the man was less than complimentary of Earnhardt who regularly stole victory away from Martin. Still, this man did agree that Earnhardt made the sport what it is today.
Our conversation also brought up names like Richard Petty, Davey Allison, and Alan Kulwicki. We had a terrific walk down Memory Lane, and then the man excused himself to get another beer.
He never did come back to his seat, preferring to listen to the band’s concert standing up in the theater. I am going to assume he did so in order to dance, move freely, and continuously refill his beer. I’d like to not believe it was because my husband and I were card-carrying Earnhardt fans to his Martin fandom.
The concert – which was phenomenal – made me think of Kansas Speedway, which may be silly but is just the way my brain works. Everything invariably comes back to NASCAR.
At the end of the concert, as we were exiting the theater, my husband spotted a man wearing a gorgeous leather official NASCAR AARP Drive to End Hunger jacket. My husband tapped me to get my attention, which the coat did, prompting me to raise my voice in the crowd and say to the man wearing the jacket, “Jeff Gordon fan?”
The man stopped and looked around, spotted my glance his way, and nodded the affirmative. He said, “Somebody has to root for Jeffy!”
I giggled thinking of the legion of loyal fans I know Gordon still claims. But my laugh was interrupted by a woman who broke into our conversation with, “Anybody but Gordon! Anybody but Jeff Gordon!”
This made me swing my head around to find the owner of the voice. A lovely blonde woman was smirking and looking at me.
I countered to the blonde woman, “Who do you like?”
“Anybody but Gordon!” she said with a huge grin.
I said, “C’mon, I know you don’t like Gordon but who do you like?”
“I like Junior, Harvick, and Danica Patrick!”
As we departed I said loudly, “There you go!”
Not a bad night hanging in the midst of NASCAR fans. It was cool because I had missed the Nationwide race from California to go on my date. But, luckily for me, I was still able to hang with NASCAR fans.
Having random chance meetings with NASCAR fans in venues I never expect to see them is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.