like mother like daughters….
My girlfriend has rented a great place at Ocracoke for the week for her two daughters and son-in-law and I’m lucky enough to get to come along too. For most bloggers this would be an indication the blog frequency is going down but I’m expecting to get to do more blogging because there’s lots of free time for reading the news and writing.
My idea of a perfect vacation!
This weekend, Pat and I ventured out to Rougemont, NC to see the “Doctor Pepper 322” races at the Orange County Speedway. We go tthere around 7:00 or so and the heat was still swelterying and muggy. But it quickly cooled off to something approaching tolerable and we had a blast watching the car races.
The nice thing about seeing races at a small track like Orange County Speedway is that everything is much more approachable and really and gritty. They let fans walk out on the track before the races to talk to the drivers and their Pit Crews. Mostly the atmosphere is something akin to a tail-gating party without the grills:
.But there is the occasional poser:
And some crews are dealing with last minute emergencies:
I don’t know enough about racing to understand all the different classes of cars that race. Most of them look like standard issues NASCAR stock cars. But there are also classes of very small cars with limited horsepower that are raced by teenagers. I thnk they are called the Bandolier class cars. Here’s an example of some of them:
These cars could not go nearly as fast as the big stock cars. But the guys racing them were no less enthusiastic about it and the driving skills were the same.
When it was time to start the races, the emceee for the races told everyone to clear off the track and that was pretty much the extent of the security for the race track. And it was enough. Everyone moseyed off the track, sooner or later.
Of course we had all the pomp and circumstance that kicks off the most sporting events. We had the presentation of colors by a local high school of the JROTC including a playing of “Silver Taps” and a tribute to veterans. They pitched a memorial scholarship fund in the name of a local soldier who’d been killed in Afghanistan. They also had a “moment of silence” which was actually a non-denominational prayer led by a local preacher who proceeded to thank God for everyone at the track including a special thanks to God for Dr. Pepper for soponsorng the night’s race” Honest. You can’t make this stuff up. Oh yeah, he also incuded a prayer for the drivers’ safety too, eventually.
Alas, my point and shoot camera was not up to the task of capturing the races themselves. You can see some of my attempts at my Flickr set. But I can honestly say that races were fun to watch. If your only experience has been seeing the big races on TV, you haven’t really experienced the race. And I’m not just talking abut the teeth rattling noise and smell of car exhaust. The races are short. Most range from 20 to 50 laps around a very small track. The longest race of the night we saw as 100 laps. And you can see everything happening on the track at all times because the track is fairly small and you are close to the action. So when you see a spin out or a crash, you can practically feel the metal crunching.
But more to the point, you can actually see the drivers jockeying for position. You can also clearly see which cars are superior to others.
Many years ago, I got a similar vibe from watching the a Tractor Pull competition at the North Carolina State Fair. There’s plenty to see at car races that appeals to the Geek in me. In fact, yu might say car racing is the geek activity of rural America.
Half the battle in winning a car race is having a superior car. The pit crews and mechanics are as much a part of the race, maybe even more. than the driver. And in some of the races we saw, there was a clearly superior on the car on the track that could just plain go faster than the other cars, which is a tribute to the peopel who obsess over how to tune a car of optimal performance and who really understand the limitatoins of the car tracks and what it means for how a car needs to be configured and adjusted for the track. Call them Car Geeks if you want.
The driver is equally important of course, but it really hits you when you are watching a car in second place try to pass the lead car. It’s a battle of nerves, timing, guts. You can watch that car go around and around the track and each lap it might come close to passing the lead car but it will be off by a fraction of a second.. And if the makes even the slightest slip, it creates just enough of an opening to let the second place car slip past and take the lead. This is lots of fun to watch.
The winners always get to take a victory lap with the checkered flag. And the first, second, and thrd place drivers all get to be interviewed by the local radio station. I love how even the most inexperienced drivers now enough about media management to immediately thank their sponsors as soon as the microphone is shoved into their face. Gotta pay the bills. And of course the winners always get to have their picture taken with “Miss Orange County Speedway.”
But you don’t necessarily have to win a race for that: