Saturday I drove to Darlington, SC to see NASCAR's Southern 500. I love going to Darlington for a race. There's a magic about the place that I think is multiplied because other smaller market tracks like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro have gone away. One of the reasons I went to Darlington the first time was because I had lamented the passing of Rockingham and was angered when Darlingon lost one of its races so I decided to put my money where my mouth is. Now they are calling this race that takes place on Mothers Day Weekend the Southern 500. For a few years Darlington didn't even host a race called the Southern 500. Some of the decisions that NASCAR makes perplex me sometimes. I think they have studied Major League Baseball and have decided that in order to be known as a major sport that have to make decisions that hurt the sport.
I met my old friend, Jeff, down there. We set up camp withing sight of the banking of turn three. He and I hadn't hung out by ourselves in almost ten years. It's pretty amazing how close old friends can fall back right into the same rapport they had even after such a long layoff.
About an hour after we set up we headed down to souvenir row because I needed a Mark Martin hat.
Oh yeah, Darlington is an incredible place to people watch.
The damn planes pulling banner signs circled the campground all day long. All day long. After a while I was completely sick of it. Is it really necessary for one to be floating above your campsite all day? Is it? Next year I am bringing a rocket launcher.
Yup, people watching.
We moved inside around 6:30 and I took a lot of pictures of the people around us.
We had a good view of the entrance to pit road and these two guys were tossing a football.
Did I mention the people watching?
I followed these two around trying to get a good shot of them.
We had an amazing view of turn 3
Robby Gordon in the pits. You can see he has a Darlington stripe on the right side of his car. They get those by scraping and/or smacking the outside retaining wall of the track.
Eventual race winner, and my favorite driver, Mark Martin in the middle of turns 3 and 4
This is our view of the front stretch. Man, we had good seats.
This is Jeff. Jeff noticed that the rednecks now cheer Jeff Gordon. We both are very confused by that. If you remember the 1990s then you know how much they used to hate this guy. I think it's because he's now a veteran. They hate the new young hotshots like Kyle Busch now and Gordon in the 1990s. Southerner are resistant to change.
Dale Jr. leaving pit road. I still can't believe how popular he is.
This graffiti from the mens room is priceless.
The cars really hugged that wall coming off turn 4.
This is Mark Martin leading the race not long before he eventually won it. I've never been so excited at a race before. I've never seen my favorite drive win in person. I couldn't sit down for the last 30 laps.
An early race panorama
Here's a panorama after the sun went down.