Monday, May 09, 2005

Ed goes to Darlington

Saturday was a full day. I didn't write about the race yesterday because I was exhausted. I left from home about 9:45 on Saturday morning and left Chris' place north of Lancaster, SC about 10:15. It was a pretty easy drive and we got to the track a little after 12:30. I was concerned about race traffic since traffic around Lowe's Motor Speedway outside of Charlotte can be a freaking nightmare. Turns out that Darlington is a breeze. From our campsite we monitored traffic and it looked to us that we could have left a couple of hours later and still not had traffic to concern ourselves with. Still, we were happy to get there early so we could hang out, relax, eat, chat and have a some brewskies. Camping was a concern also. I called a few days before the race to check on caming at some place called Camp Darlington. It costs $50 to camp there and it was sold out. When we got to the track coming down 151 I pulled into the first parking lot I saw that had tents in it. Handed a fella $25 and we set up and had a lot of room around us. The Darlington Raceway's website gives you no information at all concerning camping around the track but we did find someone's personal website that claimed there is plenty of camping to be had. He was right and we were better off where we were, I think. There were no shows but we were only staying overnight and could shower at home the next day. They had porta johns which is all that really matters.

Here's what our camping area looked like.

My little car didn't quite fit in with all the SUV's and pickups that everyone seemed to arrive but it got us there and provided a good windbreak for my tent since I forgot to bring the stakes.

This is Chris chillin' like Bob Dylan at the campsite.

After a few hours of chilling and listening to a little music on my rockin' car stereo we decided to join these two guys at the campsite next to ours for a trip to the souvenir stands. Our neighbors for the day were from Alabama. One was drunk when we got there but his buddy was merely buzzed. The mostly sober one knew a lot about racing and he was fun to talk to. I was hoping we would meet some people like them. I have tried to think of what it's like to be at a NASCAR race and in some ways it strangely similar to a Grateful Dead show. Everyone gets along well. There is little or no tension among fans. There is a lot of good natured ribbing between people wearing the colors of drivers that are rivals but nothing ugyly (at least between strangers.) I guess like a Grateful Dead show it's a culture more than an event. When we made it over to the souvenir stands, the crowd was huge. There were three rows of souvenir trucks and each row was jammed with race fans dropping a buttload of money for t-shirts and hats that seemed to hover right around $25 each.

I even decided to join everyone else around there and have my picture taken in front of the trailer selling the products of my favorite driver, Mark Martin. I even spent $25 for a cool black t-shirt with his face on it. It went well with my black hat that has a number six on it. I was stylin' when I went to the race later that night.

We went back to our campsite after a little bit. I washed my face, brushed my hair, changed out of my sweaty clothes and into a pair of jeans and my new Mark Martin t-shirt and we trudged over to the track. For some reason we went to wrong seats. We thought we were down by the fence on the front stretch. Turns out we were on the next level in much better seats. If the race hadn't been sold out and people hadn't showed up looking for their seats which we were in we may have never known. I was kinda sad we had to leave because there was a nice family in front of us. Mom and her youngest daughter decked out in Mark Martin gear also and we were chatting and bonding. The little girl was adorable. She had a stuffed toy that had a Mark Martin shirt on it and she showed it to me shyly since we were on the same team. Very cute.
Here's a shot of the mother and daughter.

Before we left and went up to our glorious good seats I took a shot of the Darlington front stretch crowd bathed in the warm setting sun.

We got to our actual seats just a few minutes before the race started. They started the cars right after we left the cheap seats. The parade laps were just starting as we were getting situated so we missed nothing of the race. The race itself was great. I won't go into much detail. I paid attention to Mark Martin almost all night long and really enjoyed his performance. It's fun to be at a race when your favorite driver is running in the top ten for most of the night. The race started right as the sun was setting behind the turn 4 grandstands and once the sun went below the horizon we had this view.

4 1/2 hours after the green flag dropped Mark Martin finished fourth behind his teammate, Greg Biffle, who won the race. He did a burnout right in front of us and the crowd loved it.

When we got back to the campsite we pigged out on cold fried chicken we had brought with us and we each had a barbecue sammich we bought from a vendor on the way back from the track. After we got situated the redneck family on the other side of our campsite got back and decided to have an alcohol fueled domestic squabble. I guess it wasn't really a squabble. This round beastly drunk woman and at some point during the race decided that her pot-bellied loud mouthed husband had spent too much time talking to other women in the grandstands. First she started out crying, then stumbling into the middle of the field yelling obscenities and then moved over to where near her shitfaced husband was and screamed such poetic musings as "you're a goddamn fucking liar, you motherfucker" and "you're a fucking goddamn liar, you fucker" and "I'm only the goddamn mother of your fucking children, you goddamn lying piece of shit mother fucker." All of this, of course, took place in front of their children who ranged from about 7 to 15 years old. The stinking drunk husband (who when they first started drinking before the race told his son "no matter how drunk I get be sure you remember where the campsite is," something every little boy dreams of hearing from his father.) decided the best way to handle his raging was wife was to laugh at her. That approach didn't seem to quiet her none. You might even say that it made her angrier and prolonged the fight. Eventually she wore down, passed out or died of alcohol poisoning, I can't say for sure which. It went on for almost an hour and it was kinda funny but not really funny but there wasn't anything I could do so I just sat there and watched.

Shortly after the show ended I went in the tent and crashed and Chris sat with the boys from Alabama at their campfire and talked racing. I think were going back next year.

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