NASCAR adventure

Sometime you just get lucky! On November 2, at Phoenix International Raceway I attended my first NASCAR race. What a spectacle. It was arranged and abetted by Daryl Dawson, my mentor.

If you have never been to a NASCAR event there is nothing to prepare you for the preponderance of mullet haircuts and skin-tight short-shorts on women who should know better.

We arrived on a bus from Prescott, the trip was arranged by Daryl, plotted by Daryl and endured by Daryl. It was his first live race, too, but Daryl is an enthusiast, where I am not. Daryl watches the races on TV, which, as it turns out, is the best way to watch a race. 

NASCAR can pound 200,000 people into as small a space as is possible to pound people. This makes for a miserable day in the sun. I beat the odds, however, using my ever-present Press Pass to get into the media room and take pictures that few get to take.

Here are my favorites.

(Click on the little picture to see the big picture.)

Pre Race Activities

The race is divided into the pre-game show, the game, and the post-game show. I cannot show the post-game activities because I left after Lap 41. The pre-game, however, is a hoot. I had to sanitize a few shots due to family content but mostly you can get the idea of what to expect from a NASCAR race.

DarylGirl.jpg (41094 bytes)
At the gate where we came in. One thing that can be said about NASCAR is that they greet you with pretty girls. 

The girls get more homely than comely further inside the gate but then the mullets get longer, too.

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We sat in the cheap seats. Of course, no seats are cheap in NASCAR but ours were cheap in comparison.

It is 11:00 am and the race starts at 1:30pm. To entertain us there are loud speakers every ten feet telling us what the official gas, oil, hairspray, hotel, motor home, potato chip and every other product endorsement thing under the sun is so we will be sure to buy something to help those sponsors pay the ridiculous fees that they pay to NASCAR in order to become an official sponsor.

(Whew... I did that sentence on one breath!)

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Daryl is on row 27, seat 48. The term "seat" is relative. It is a wooden bleacher, the kind you read about that collapses at a European Soccer game, killing seventy-five hundred spectators in the fall. If you looked under the stands you would bolt for the parking lot, and solid ground.
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Do not take this as a representative image of the stands. At race time, every number will have an ample NASCAR buttocks on it.

Just remember that NASCAR fans start drinking beer at 9:00 am and don't stop until the next millennium. 

At six bucks a pop, they pop a few bucks into the NASCAR coffers, too.

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(Oh, common... you expected that, didn't you?)

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"Dale" merchandise is the second largest "Dead Guy" yearly sales franchise after Elvis.
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I think I said that spray painted pants are abundant. If not, then I do now. 

It gives me the chance to show you the proof. 

(And that's my story and I'm stickin' to it, and I rest my case.)

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If you sell it, they will come. Every driver has at least one semi sales office. I don't mean that they do semi sales, they sell semi-trailers full of everything from hats, shirts, jackets, sweat pants, oh heck, if it can hold a driver's name, it will sell to somebody.
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These are the really cheap seats on the hill next to the track. I think they get $20 bucks a head for the opportunity to sit here, along with the scorpions, snakes and lizards, who have to pay, too.
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This is what the well dressed news photographer shoots. 

It cost more than my car is worth.

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The opening ceremony had a fly-by of Air Force jets.
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The last thing in the Opening Ceremony (after the jet fly-by) was a balloon release. 

(Flashy, yet restrained.)

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Professional Interest:

She was about 50 feet away. I used the 80-400 VR at ISO 100 with the VR system on. 

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This is a 1-to-1 blowup of the previous shot. How much can you read?

Wow. I love this lens!

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(This is a little out of order, because this is what the stands look like during the race. I had to put it here for my friends.)

OK, do you think this sport is well attended?

(For my professional friends, Every head has an embroidered  cap.)

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If you pay a few hundred dollars a day you can park your motor home behind the pits and watch from the roof. 

It helps if you have a strong roof.

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This is Jeff Gordon on his way to the car.
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This is one of the admirers after collecting autographs.
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Don't let anyone tell you that a creative man in possession of a Press Pass can't bluff his way into the Press Room of a NASCAR track.
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The Public Relations director asked me how I got this far with the meager credential that I had in my possession.

He said, "Wow, You're really good!"

(I purred.) 

Perseverance, luck and chutzpa are my only weapons.

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The last in a long line of Ms. Winston's to grace the race.
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Daryl among the expensive seats along the straight.
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Everything with wheels sports a drivers colors. 

The paraplegic  wheelchair crowd overwhelmingly supports Jeff Gordon. 

A few old wheelchair geezer support other guys, but usually they have beer holders on the arms.

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I had to shoot through the fence because the cops were asking me to move.

This must be around Lap 25.

Shortly after this shot was taken, the first of the many Caution Flags-du-jour was waved.

That means that some incident happened on the track and the cars were slowed to allow repair or rescue efforts to proceed. 

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This photo is taken toward turn number 1 from the Start/Finish line.
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Imagine driving your car at two hundred miles an hour, six inches from the bumper of your neighbor, three cars wide, on this track.
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I guess you can figure out that the checkered lines the Start/Finish line.
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Ok, it's 11:00 am. There is still a beer in every crowd.
The Pits.

They're only called "The Pits" because they have to call them something. Personally, I think they are very, very cool. This is where the steed is maintained, refreshed and returned to the fray during the race.

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This is the only time of the day when forty cars will be quietly sitting on the track. 

Race time is forty minutes away.

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Go Fast. Turn Left. Repeat 200 times.
Stands.jpg (45429 bytes)
This is what the stands look like from the infield. If you look very closely, you will find Daryl in row 27, seat 48. He is the guy in the OB hat without someone next to him in seat 49.

The guy in 49 is taking the photo from the infield.

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Imagine that each 24 inch bleacher seat has a thirty inch derriere on it.

Now imagine that you are in seat 48 with 47 people on either side of you. 

Now imagine having to get up and recycle all the beer you have been drinking since 9:00 am.

Now imagine that you have paid eighty bucks for the privilege.

Now imagine sitting in your living room, watching the race on TV, drinking a diet pop and eating a sandwich that you didn't pay six bucks for.

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This is the runway between the garages and the pits.

Every driver passes this way to the cheers of an adoring crowd.

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