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A week or so ago, Tim used the "Jedi Mind Trick" to rustle us
up some tickets to the Pepsi 400. Was I ever excited! I couldn't wait
to hang out with a bunch of cigarette smoking, tobacco chewing, cousin
Tim's not much on encouraging anyone to do anything
with him. If you want to go, go. If not, Tim won't push. With that in
mind, I debated my choice. I could go and watch a bunch of good old boys
turn left until they fell over dizzy, or I could stay home and write another
beer review. Since Tim and I had written one the night
prior to the race, I decided to tag along with Tim and his dad.
Sunday morning, Tim, his Dad, and I, headed to
Brooklyn Michigan, the home of Michigan
International Speedway. Tim's dad was concerned that we didn't leave
early enough. He thought we'd get stuck in traffic. Tim was sure that
all we'd miss was the classic, "Gentleman, start your engines!"
and a few warm up laps. I wasn't too concerned. I was eager to see if
my prejudices were correct.
Thanks to a complete lack of road signs,
we missed our turn and almost drove into Jackson. (Greg
will never admit it was his fault! T.) I was concerned now because
I was tired of sitting in a car and not driving. We found our turn on
our way back, and we all anticipated heavy traffic. After all, this race
draws 150,000 plus Nascar maniacs each year.
Much to our suprise, there wasn't any traffic.
It was very eerie as we drove through Cement City. Side streets were blocked
off with signs that said, "No Race Traffic." There wasn't any, though.
No people, no cars, there wasn't a soul in sight. I felt like Shaggy in
a Scooby-Doo adventure.
Before we could
rip the mask off Tim's head to reveal Old Lady McGillicudy, we were out
if Cement City, and other evidence appeared that race fans had been through
the area. There were kids and a toothless fat lady selling pop, candy,
and ice along the roadway. Still no traffic though. We would arrive a
half hour early if we maintained this pace.
Suddenly, as if out of nowhere like a UFO planning
to abduct us, MIS
was upon us. It was huge! There were cars, trucks, campers and RVs for
miles. In the middle of all that was a mile long grandstand that was nearly
6 stories tall at it's highest point. I think we were all impressed. Some
how we were able to park close to the grandstand. I think the Nascar gods
were with us.
With my chin bouncing off the ground we worked
our way to the grandstand. I knew that 150,000 was a lot of people, but
I'd never actually been a part of that number. I pulled my chin back into
place and tied my jaw shut. I began to look for evidence of rednecks.
The first sign I saw was a Winston cigarette display. People were lined
up for several hundred feet. I think they were giving away free cigarettes.
I saw woman in cut-off jeans and a halter top trying to carry three CARTONS
of cigarettes and her purse, while holding the hand of a small child.
She also had a freshly lit cigarette dangling from her lip. That was the
last and only evidence I encountered during our trip.
We continued to wade through a sea of humanity.
As we approached the track, I looked at the tickets carefully for the
first time. Tickets were $60 dollars each! Wow! How could so many people
afford to be here. That thought remained on my mind as we climbed up to
our seats. I saw a family of four right in front of us. That's $240 for
a day at the races. Tim said that seats closer to the track cost less
while seats higher up cost more. Since we were in the middle, I guessed
the $60 was probably an average ticket price. That means we were sitting
in the middle of $9,000,000.
We sat down. It was a good thing we had four tickets
for three people. The seating was bleacher style, and the extra ticket
allowed us to have a little space between our knees. People all around
had brought coolers filled with beer and soda. We had one filled with
subs. I thought this was one of the coolest things about the event. Although
they raped the fans on ticket price, the track did not gouge them on food
We were seated and in place about 20 minutes before
race time. I looked out and saw an infield filled with RVs and busses.
Some were painted to match the cars of favorite drivers. All of them had
platforms built on top to hold the many fans that had made the trip. Tim's
dad and I kept looking for chicks in bikinis. There were enough to keep
us pleasntly amused until the race got started. Tim kept looking down
pit row to try and see the car of his favorite driver, John Andretti.
Shortly before the race there was a prayer, the
Candian national anthem, and then our national anthem concluded with a
fly by of F-16s from the Air National Guard. The race was about to begin.
Before it did though, the announcer wanted us to welcome the drivers with
world famous MIS
wave. It started at our end of the track and went all the way to the opposite
end and back in about 5 minutes. That's over 2 miles of people. The wave
moved at a little over 25 miles an hour. I still couldn't get over all
A soon a we sat down, the "gentlemen"
started their engines and were lead around the track by the pace cars.
We were about a half mile behind pit row in turn four. As the cars entered
the track, I could barely hear the sound of the motors. I was concerned
because I hadn't brought ear protection. The noise grew to a low rumble
as the cars came down the straight away heading towards turn three. In
turn three they sounded like a giant freight train. As they entered turn
4 and passed us, I couldn't hear myself think. But later I thought that's
what being in a tornado must be like. As quickly as they came they were
The pace cars went in and the race began. It was
a lot like television except for the noise. I also got to watch the drivers
I wanted to watch. It was very competitive. I could see strategy develop.
I began to predict when the drivers were going to make their moves, and
exactly how they were going to make them. I really got into it. The crashes
were much better live too. Near the end the drivers were 4 wide competing
for the lead. Here's a snip of what it
looked like(clck here). Put your ears real close to the speakers,
and turn it up for the full effect.
Except for the barrage of sound, and the uncomfortable
seating, I really enjoyed myself. The people around us, although they
all rooted for different drivers, were friendly. The race was exciting.
I still won't call the drivers athletes, but I do believe they are competitors.
I have much more respect for them and their fans now.
Whether you're a fan of Nascar
or not, you should try to do this at least once. Tickets are hard to get,
but we saw lots of scalpers at street corners miles before we were close.
If you stay on the main route to the tracks you'll find tickets for sale.
Make sure you bring a hat, ear plugs, and lots of sunscreen. I burned
my nose pretty badly. Head up a litlle later than you think you should.
You'll miss all the traffic from the die hards (they were all die hards)
who get there early. There's no way to avoid the traffic going out. It
took us twice as long to get home as it did to get there. As we were leaving,
I noticed some seasoned race fans barbecuing. That may be the best way
to miss the traffic home. However you do it, you'll be glad you did.