Today i did the typical American petrol head thing, i attended a NASCAR event, much to the annoyance of Warren sat back home watching it on the TV. Sorry mate! :-p
Now i must admit that although i like nearly all sports which include an engine of some form, i’ve never been mad keen on oval racing. Warren however has spent the last few years trying to explain the various rules and get me into NASCAR. I’ve watched it a few times on tv catching the (extremely) late at night highlights on channel 4 and have often been completely baffled with how one minute a car is running in 1st and then the next he’s running in 30th.
Because i never really “got it” this became the topic of some debate over numerous games of pool in the shovels over the last few years. When he told me that the Auto Club 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race was being held at the California Speedway this weekend, i thought i would go check it out.
After getting up at stupid o’clock (6am) we, yes we, i dragged Kate along too, jumped in the car and tried to navigate our way out of Hollywood onto the freeway which would take us the 60 or so miles out of the city to the speedway. Having completed a rather scenic detour we found our way onto the correct road and were cruisin’.
We arrived at the speedway at around 7:30am and went to collect the tickets i’d pre ordered. Baring in mind the race didn’t start untill 12:45pm we were wondering what the hell we were going to do until then. That turned out to be quite easy, we strolled around all the promo stands and shops, collecting everything which was free and entering every free competition, one of which was a crystal maze style, ‘grab the dollar bills and stuff them in a hole thing’. (for those of you who don’t know what crystal maze is… where were you in the 90’s?? for the foreigners amongst us, your forgiven, but ask a Brit!). I then strolled round taking pictures of some of the replica cars and had my photo taken with a few Crown Royal girls and the car they were sponsoring, i did it for the picture of the car… honestly! :-p
On the way back round from the loop of stands there was a live band playing, i asked Kate if she’d ever heard them before because i hadn’t, I then glanced at the big screen and said wait a sec thats Kevin Costner isn’t it? Yep, Kevin Costner has a band and in actual fact they are pretty good. Stood there for a little while until they blew up a bass amp and then we discovered a Metal Mulisha stunt show consisting of 4 lunatics on moto cross bikes doing back flips and all sorts, great to watch if not a little scary. Before we knew it it was noon, so we headed to our seats and got ready for the big event. After Brian McKnight sang the national anthem and the fly over by some F16’s was complete, they introduced the drivers and we were go.
The call “Gentlemen, Start your engines!” got me all pumped up and when i heard those 30 odd cars start there ignitions the sound was incredible. There was a few parade laps and then the rolling start, the pace car pulled into the pits and then as they came out of turn 4 and headed towards where we were standing the rumble got louder and louder until vrooom, vrooom, vrooom, *dave makes sound effects* they all passed two abreast heading into the first banked corner. The fans were going crazy and there were some definite favourites amongst the crowd, Dale Earnhardt Jnr, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kensith, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson. I however being a Formula 1 fan was cheering for Juan Pablo Montoya, who was in his rookie season and really hadn’t got a hope in hells chance of winning!
It wasn’t long until we saw our first pile up (lap 6 i think?) and the race pretty much progressed from there every so often there would be a yellow flag or a safety car, meaning that they would all line up behind the pace car and wait for whatever problem to be resolved. Around lap 150 we had a good long run under green flags and there was some pretty nail biting action between the top 4 for a good while before eventually one of them started to walk off into the distance. On lap 246, there abouts, there was another flag, only this time red. Someone had had a bad crash and they stopped the race, cleared it up and did another rolling start. With only 4 to go i was up out of my seat watching intently as the race leaders shot off ahead of the pack. It was clear within a lap though that the race had already been won by the guy in front, Matt Kensith, he was flying. After some stella driving by the following three, the race ended and 500 miles, 250 laps of the California Speedway had been completed.
JPM finished around 24th having spent most of the afternoon messing about in the 30’s and so i was pretty happy about that. As soon as Kensith had finished doing his doughnuts on the infield we did our best to escape in front of the crowds as possible. That worked great although, even though we remembered where we had parked the car, we couldn’t find it. I then found the car but had lost Kate in the process. After much confusion we were all finally reunited and we set off attempting to find our way back to Hollywood.
Finally arriving back at the hostel at about 7pm we started to walk down toward the Kodak Theatre, in hope of some celeb spotting, with it being Oscar night. In truth we never made it, a pizza place caught our eye so we had some food and wandered back to the hostel thinking that we probably wouldn’t have seen much by that point anyway.
Just before the race i spoke to Warren and he said “I told you i’d get you in to NASCAR”. My reply was that the jury was out until the race was over, in actual fact, i had decided long before the race was over that i did actually like it. I was totally took in by the atmosphere the noise of those monsterous engines and the smell of burning rubber, brakes and clutch as they all came roaring past me lap after lap. I really don’t understand why they give you a seat… i was either perched on the edge of it or stood up for the whole time. I’m not saying its for everyone, it certainly takes a bit of getting used to, but when your there in the thick of it with tens of thousands of rednecks & hillbillies screaming prophanities at the opposition you DO get into it and you DO find yourself becoming a hillbilly aswell!