Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A look inside a NASCAR hot garage at Texas Motor Speedway

Sprint Cup garage, Texas Motor Speedway, Nov. 1, 2014
credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs  
There's really no feeling like being in a hot garage.

No, not your two-car-attached garage in August, but a NASCAR garage while engines are fired and
drivers guide the 3400 lb. missiles through throngs of people. The fans gather, hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes, or if they're bold and lucky enough, an autograph or photo.
Team owner  Richard Petty heading to the No. 43 garage
credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs  
The garage is "hot" when engines are fired and cars are moving under power, such as during practices, qualifying, and for a set amount of time before, during and after a race. A special credential, or "pass" is required to go into a hot garage or into hot pits. Cold passes are available to allow entrance into the garage during down times, but you have a better chance of seeing a driver when the garage is hot.

The first thing you notice is the sound.  The sweet, sweet sound of eight-cylinders firing in a 875-hp, gasoline-fed engine that growls and echos off the concrete walls, despite the sea of human bodies that should mute the roar, but instead causes them to vibrate in tune with their throaty song.
Steve Letarte follows Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the No. 88 stall.
credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Then there's the smell. With a base of exhaust fumes, a middle of raw fuel, and top notes of rubber and lubricants, with the occasional whiff of grilling meat from the team haulers, the scent of a hot garage is intoxicating. When you walk away, it lingers on your skin like a fine perfume.

Urgency radiates from crew members who either run or walk at a purposeful clip. With a limited window in which to tune their cars and their destiny, every moment is precious. They can only do so much in the pits once the green flag flies, so they must make the most of the time they have.

Danica Patrick's crew pushes the No. 10 car into its stall
credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
From the brightly-painted haulers to the crew uniforms and driver firesuits to the spectators' attire that broadcasts - often loudly - their favorite drivers, a NASCAR garage always presents a visual feast of colors and textures.

And finally, there's the sound.

Yes, I know I listed that first, but really, the sound is the first and last thing you notice. At Texas
Motor Speedway, the garage is fairly deep into the infield, but you can still hear and feel the cars on the track. You may not be able to see them all the way around it without the help of Big Hoss TV, but you can hear them as they circle the mile-and-a-half track, engines screaming as they launch into the high-banked turns and wailing as they dive down the straightaways.

As the cars speed out of the garage and onto the track or as they re-enter from the track, the rumble bounces off of the walls and vibrates through your body.

Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin heading out to the track
credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
When the engines shut off at the end of the session, the silence is almost as deafening as the din was. Crew members push cars back to their stalls. Everything and everyone slows down.

Until the next time the garage goes hot.

No. 4 crew pushing the car back to the stall
credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

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