nin_man's Blog
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I had a fantastic time at my first race at Darlington.  First race at any track besides Talladega, in fact.  Turns out, not everywhere is as rowdy as 'dega.  Not a wine and cheese crowd at Darlington by any stretch, but the air was a whole lot more civilized.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed about it was how easy it was to get there, not just compared to other tracks but to other sports venues.  Being in the corner of two interstates cuts down on funneling all the cars down one road, and just getting there was a whole lot less maddening than some places.  Clemson, I'm talking about you.

So we get there, get parked (right next to the woods, which made finding the car later a whole lot easier) and I commenced to setting up the tailgaiting.  Again, pretty civilized.  To my knowledge, no fights broke out in the parking lot, everyone kept it pretty quiet, and the worst thing that happened was my wife had to go regulate on some kids that were setting off firecrackers right next to her Pathfinder.  Some bacon cheeseburgers and beers later, and we're all set to spend a couple of hours walking around among all the merchandise trailers.

This was a lot smaller than I'm used to.  I don't mean that in a bad way, it was just more like going to a smaller mom n' pop store as opposed to a giant, sprawling, soulless mall.  You could conceivably see everything here if you wanted to.  Jr. only had four trailers hawking his wares, to put it in perspective.

So I got my picture taken with DW's old Mountain Dew car.  I'd show it to you, but I looked like a tool and I don't think all the Photoshop in the world is going to make that picture presentable.  My wife went for a picture in the 20, and we both waited in line for forever to drive the Daytona race simulators (she won after me and the guy driving the 2 decided that rubbin' was, in fact, racin' and ended up spun out in the grass before turn 1).  I played around with the pit crew challenges at the Craftsman booth and discovered that while I would make a fine jackman, I am an utter failure as a tire changer.  My wife reiterated why they are called "crewmen" with a performance I won't detail here for the sake of her dignity.  I won a sexy calendar full of Craftsman tools.

I may have molested a Challenger or three and berated the Dodge booth manager on why they didn't have the fun cars (Challenger or Viper) available for test driving, just the boring ones.  He didn't say anything, but I'm sure my drunken self offered all the proof he needed that he made a wise choice in not offering them up for test drives.  But I still want a Challenger so bad, if only it got better than 13 mpg.

We did some other stuff, but around this point my beer had kicked in full-steam so I don't remember what happened.  Turns out, my beer wasn't beer at all - says right there on the bottle that it is actually "malt liquor" and when I noticed that I was sad that it didn't come in a bigger bottle.  Anyway, three bottles of that put me in better spirits than 12 Buds (more on that later) and except for that spot where I forget what happened, the pre-race festivities were pretty fun.  Got a ton of other free stuff too, all of which I will likely throw away later this afternoon when I clean out the back of the SUV.

So we start heading through the gates to go to our seats and, you know, I've come to the conclusion that the 6x6x12 size limit on coolers is just about a joke.  I was carrying one about twice that size and the bag-checker-dude didn't even bat an eye.  It was full of water bottles, but still.  Yes, water bottles.  There's not a beer on this earth that comes in a can that I'll drink.  Call me a snob if you gotta.  So we get through and - y'all, that's a steep set of stairs to climb to get up to the track.  I had gotten seats that were 9 rows back from the track, about fifty feet behind the start/finish line.  We sat down and my wife squealed with joy when she noticed we were right across from Tony's pit stall.

On that note, I'm gonna say that I had really rather get a seat down close to the track if I'm going to go see a race in person.  Yeah, I know, you can't see as much that way, but it's hard to follow what's going on in person anyway - what did we do before Fanview - and if I want to go to a race, I want to be right down there IN the race.  I want to get slapped in the face with little marbles of rubber, I want to be high as a kite off the exhaust fumes, I want to feel every one of those horsepower rumbling in my chest when the cars scream past me so close I could just about touch them.  If I'm sitting up high away from all that, I might as well be at home on a couch where I can have my fancy bottled bee- uh, malt liquor with me.

Anyway, when we got there the drivers were just coming up pit road to get ready for the introductions.  I tried taking pictures but my stupid camera auto-focused on the fence instead of anything beyond it, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Kyle Busch got by far the loudest boo, of course.  I reckon if he were on fire, most fans would only pee on the part of him that wasn't burning.  But the second-biggest boo?  JPM.  When he was about to be announced, I thought to myself, my wife's gonna cheer for him because she likes him, but she's gonna be the only one.  Now, I could be a decent human being and warn her, or I could let her fig- and by then it was too late.  She yelled out for him, and everybody (still booing) turned to look at her in horror, as if she had just cheered someone kicking a puppy.  I looked away and pretended I knew her not.

Jr. got the biggest pop, of course, but it was far from universal.  He actually did get a couple of boos, but I think the boo-er was a Gordon fan so I'll just have to excuse him because he just doesn't know any better.  Probably wets the bed, too.

The race starts, and you all know how that played out.  We're listening to Tony's radio when Sadler hit him, and the stream of profanities that came out of his mouth...his poor mother was probably listening to that, and wondered when she failed him so miserably as a parent.  He wasn't happy with his car for most of the race, until it came back after that last caution and then he was driving like a man possessed.  If Sadler hadn't hit him and knocked his car all out of alignment, I believe he would have won that race.

I noticed, sitting a couple of seats down from us, was a familiar face.  I didn't recognize him right away, but as soon as he stood up every lap and spun his fist around as the cars drove by (I hate to think what confusion would have erupted on the track if not for his reminding all the drivers what they were to do), it hit me:  This is the same drunk sumbetch at Talladega last year who did the same thing.  And just like Talladega, about 2/3ds through the race, all those Buds caught up with him and he passed right the heck out.  Okay, I don't know how bombed you have to be to pass out and stay out when you're sitting twenty feet away from 45,000 horsepower and you aren't wearing earplugs, but he did it.  For the second time that I've seen him.  I wonder now if this is something he does at every track.

On the other side of us was a group of young gals who, every thirty laps or so, would get up and go to the restroom.  One time one of them came back furiously wiping her nose, and I figured it out.  And I was mad.  Not because she was doing coke, but dammit, she could have done that in her seat and not made us have to move every time she needed a fix.  Hell, I think we had a mirror we would have loaned her if it would have meant my potato chips wouldn't get stepped on anymore.

I thought the race itself was kind of boring.  It ended up being a whole lot of single-file racing, and the cars were often spaced so far apart that passing was hard to do.  That said, even a boring race is a lot of fun to watch live.  And being that close to the pit boxes was something new for me, too.  You know how the cars look slower on TV than they do in person?  Same goes for the pit crews.  Those guys FLY during a pit stop.

So Kyle won, the crowd was not pleased at all, and a few items were thrown at his car.  Now, I know we're never going to stop fans from throwing stuff on the track.  But can we at least make a rule where you can't be in the upper decks and throw things?  Unless you're a major-league pitcher, it's never going to make it and you're just going to his somebody lower in the stands, maybe sitting in the ninth row or so.  Also?  Who throws peanuts at the track?  Honestly.  But kudos to the guy who nailed Busch's windshield from fifteen rows back, while his car was driving towards victory lane.  I don't approve of his throwing something, but I am impressed with his aim.

So the race is over, and everyone is making a beeline for the exits.  I want no part of this - I tell my wife I'm going to wait for the clusterf**k to get a little more celibate before we try going anywhere.  So we walk around the trailers a little more, find a Fanview trailer further down towards the minnow pond where there's no line, unlike the ones by the exits where the line to turn in your stuff is fifty people deep, and hit a Stewart and Jr. trailer to buy some shirts.  There was a HUGE crowd next to Jr's trailer, so I figured either he was there signing stuff or someone was on the ground having a seizure, but the crowd was too big for me to find out which one so we started walking back to the parking lot.

I need to say here and now that there's no port-a-johns in the parking lot, whereas Talladega has them out there for tailgaters.  What Darlington does have is a whole mess of trees, which is just as good.  All you had to do was scurry through the underbrush and find a secluded spot where the lights wouldn't illuminate your business and you were all set.  But it's hard to pee when all you can hear around you are giggling, squatting women.  I began to wonder if I accidentally wandered into the ladies' room.

I fired up the grill again, cooked some more burgers, ate some more junk food, drank some more of my not-beers (it's called Optimator, it's German, and I highly recommend it), read some more of my book, and eventually conked out for a nap.  By the time we woke up, it was 2:30 and the line to get out of the parking lot wasn't a line at all.  So I told my wife she was hereby elected to drive home, and we went.  It was a good day.

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