Hey there race fans. Here it is Saturday morning after the 2009 Nationwide Race at the famed Darlington Raceway dubbed "The Track Too Tough To Tame." Friday, I got the boy out of school early and we headed to the race track. The anticipation of going to the race and the drive there adds to the fun and excitement of the whole event. Here's my observations from the day at the track.
To help celebrate the 60th running of the Southern 500, track officials painted "Darlington Raceway" with a retro look. You may have seen it in the middle of the corners. At least before the cars put a stripe on it.
There weren't as many vendors in the fan area behind the front stretch as in the past. There used to be all kinds of fan events with free on line pictures and activities. The only place that took pictures was the Combos area. Speed TV had a display up for photos but the rain shut that area down and it didn't reopen. They weren't the only ones. Paytheracefan.com began to take their display down after the rain delay with the sun shining. I was going to check them out. I wonder how many others would have done so as well if they didn't pack up.
Sprint had the biggest display up. 3-D race simulator, a show car that resembled a dinosauer with humps on the roof and smoke coming out of the back tire area. The only freebie Sprint offered was a free laynard with a card on it talking about some of their services. Speaking of services, customer service was non existant. That is why I canceled my Nextel phone last year and went with Alltel. There were four of us in one area that showed a video promoting Sprint's mobile data plan. After watching it, you were to get a free gift for watching. One Sprint rep was in there and she talked to other people without even offering up a "hey, how are you?" Just the laynard which I had to go get out of a box in a corner.The line to the simulator was long and didn't move after 10 minutes so we left that area. The best part about the Sprint area was the music blaring and some of the videos shown. Oh yeah....one very attractive Sprint lady dancing in her spot.
When the Dodge Dealers sponsored the Cup race, they had a huge display set up with all kinds of activities. With the exception of some banners and a huge area painted in turn 4 on the track, godaddy.com had nothing. One would think with the sponsoship of the race, they would have a display up or passing out some kind of information or free stuff in the fan area.
Biggest Surprise Finish Of The Race - Justin Algaier coming in 5th. He hung around the top 10 all night and did a great job at a tough track. He's one to watch in the next few years. Who would have thought Patrick Carpentier would have finished one position behind Kyle Busch prior to the start? Bush finished 16th and Carpentier finished 17th. Despite spinning twice, Brad Kesolowski came home 11th. Eric Darnell for being in the top 5 all night and being in 2nd with less than 25 to go.
Fans Cheers & Jeers - Cheers for Jimmy Johnson crashing on his qualifying attempt. Jeers for Kyle Busch during driver intros. Cheers for Kyle having to pit while leading during a yellow flag with three to go due to a tire going down. Cheers for Morgan Shepherd during driver intros.
Overkill - Fox had an entire souvinier rig devoted to Digger stuff. I didn't bother to look to see what they had or even if anyone was there. I felt if I looked, I would validate the reason for that critter's existance and for Fox making a buck on it.
Best T-Shirt Slogan - It was on a guy in his early 30's. It read "Playing video games has ruined my life. I'm lucky I have more lives."
More Police - For whatever reason, law enforcement was more visible this year. Darlington County Sheriff's Office had a command center located just across the road from the tent campground area. Officers roamed the parking area and also grandstands. I don't know if they were trying to be more proactive in those areas due to past problems or what the case was.
Run Over - On the way to our seats after Cup qualifying, we about got run over by Joey Lagano's spotter going up the stairs to his spot on top of the press box for the Nationwide race.
Food - Even though we brought our own, the food vendor's stuff looked great. The most appetizing looked to be the chicken tenders and fries.
Best Quote Of The Day - We were standing in line at the Goody's display when a guy his 50's or 60's came up with his little rat dog and some young gal who looked to be in her early 20's. The guy told the dog at one point, "Come here or I'll have to kill you." Then he gave all his wisest thought of the day..."Then you'll be dead."
Rain Delay - We were at the Combos display when the rain came. Lucky for us were inside an air conditioned trailer where a Mario Cart game was set up. It poured and got a little windy, but luckily it only lasted a little over 30 minutes. Saw a 9-11 year old boy keep jumping in the puddles. He even began to lay down in the water and then did pushups. It's probably the only time he does them - in the rain. He'll do well in his future career in the military. Once the rain did stop, the sun came out and got hot again. It actually worked best to get the track dry to get Cup qualifying in, which I had my doubts would take place. Since there has been rain in the area all week, there were parts of the grass parking area that was muddy and some were even shut down. I can only imangine how that much more muddy that will be after the Cup race and more fans going in and out of there. Glad I don't have to deal with that, but it does bring back memories about going to an Indy 500 back int he mid '80's. That's a story for another day though.
All right, that's all I have for now. That's all the sights, sounds and smells of Darlington on a typical Nacar race day.