I thought I would combine last Sunday and this Sunday into one post, but since I’ve already titled a post “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” I couldn’t think of a good enough title for a post that combined a Nascar race and an air show. So I’ll give both their own posts.
Last Sunday my friend Dan and I traveled down to Talladega, AL for the Aaron’s 499 — 500 miles (don’t let the name fool you) of pure Nascar heaven.
We started the trip before the sun started the day, since we had a 3.5 hour trip ahead of us. The rain came early and didn’t let up. I watched the radar like a hawk — every five minutes, I checked it to see if the storm was breaking up at all. Once we arrived at the track and parked, we sat in the car for about an hour, watching the pre-race show on Dan’s phone, talking, and praying the rain away. (and checking the radar)
Finally, the rain stopped… there was a bit of a window (that’s an old Indy 500 term), and then that window got bigger and bigger. The storm was breaking up! Hurray!
So we headed out to the souvenir trailers, the merchandise tents, the manufacturer displays, etc. We knew there would be a bit of a delay to the start of the race, since there was a 2.66 mile track to dry after all the rain. So we weren’t in a rush. After awhile, we headed into the track to see the front stretch and then to walk around to the back stretch, where our seats were.
Superspeedways are big places. We both knew we had quite a hike ahead of us. I didn’t think about the fact that counterclockwise around the track wasn’t equal to clockwise around the track, since Talladega is a bit of a D-shape. And the signs coming into the track didn’t indicate that we should have parked on the other side. Dan and I didn’t mind walking, so we didn’t think much about the hike we had ahead of us.
But we wanted to make sure we could walk all the way around the track on the inside of the gate, so we stopped to ask an official-looking man.
He was astounded that we were sitting on the back stretch and were planning on walking over there. He was even more astounded that we had parked where we had. (I wanted to see the souvenirs, okay?) He told us he would take us back to our car so that we could re-park. Neither Dan nor I really wanted to do that, and we knew after the race we would be fine (we would just walk the other way around the track, which was a shorter distance than what we were doing at that moment)
So the guy took us to our seats! It was great! He told us to hop in his 15-passenger van – he had someone he needed to check on, but he said, “It’ll only take 5 minutes to take you. Hop in.” We were waved through credential check points as we drove along (we never would have made it through walking) and he told us we were sitting in the newest section of the track (that equals the newest bathrooms), although some people didn’t like sitting there because it was in the sun the whole race. It didn’t seem like that would be a problem, though– since the clouds were still pretty thick.
As we drove, someone came over his walkie-talkie and said something about not being able to find Dale. I’m still convinced it was Dale Jr. But I suppose it really could have been anyone named Dale.
He dropped us off, we thanked him for his hospitality, and we were ready to head to our seats to watch the jet dryers.
I won’t bore you with details of the race. There weren’t many cautions, so it went pretty quickly. The roar of the engines at the first green lap always makes my hair stand on end. You can feel it in your stomach. It’s incredible.
The saddest part of the race was when my two favorite drivers, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards, got caught up in the same wreck. It was a crazy moment — people were running out of gas right in front of us, then suddenly there was a wreck in the third turn. (We were sitting near the second turn – see above – but could see pretty much the whole track, except for part of the front stretch after turn 4)
The last handful of laps turned kind of crazy, although they were still pretty tame compared to the usual Talladega craziness. Dan was rooting for Kurt Busch because his car looked exactly like Ricky Bobby’s. But Kurt spun out. I like most of the field, so after Gordon and Edwards wrecked, I wasn’t really rooting for anyone, but was okay with most anyone winning… except for Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, of course. I wanted Dale Jr to win, but it didn’t look like he had what it was going to take.
On the last lap, Brad Keselowski was leading, Kyle Busch was in second, and I kept repeating, “No, no, no…”
But it happened. Of all people. I would have preferred 41 other people to have won or finished second.
Then Dan and I made our long trek back to the car. And we wondered where our friend had gone. We should have asked him where he would be picking us up at the end at the race.
Despite the finish, it was a good day. And after a rainy beginning, there was plenty of sun in the afternoon. Enough sun to get a little burned through 50 spf.
Top: turn two, with the Alabama mountains
Bottom, left to right: Larry McReynolds, former crewchief and current analyst for FOX, went by us on a golf cart, then took an elevator up to the broadcast booth – not before handing an autograph to a boy in a wheelchair; the Talladega sign over one of the entrances to the track; Tony Stewart