Charlotte Raceway

From the series, Life on Dog Hill

It started out innocently enough. I was planning a simple get-away for the family over a long weekend. Not wanting to drive too far, I studied the map for possible interests within a two-hour drive of our home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

I nixed the beach since we would be spending a week there in July (and I’m not a big beach person anyway. Yes, personal self-interests noted). I nixed the mountains after my husband Tom told me that our house, nestled within a five-acre wood, reminded him enough of the mountains and that he preferred a different scene. The perfect remaining target? North Carolina’s biggest city — Charlotte.

With that destination in mind, I began my second phase of research to come up with as many entertainment venues as possible. Topping the list of must-dos was our family’s first-ever NASCAR race!

NASCAR! Vroom, vroom! What more could a woman do for her hubby and three sons? Forty-something souped up cars, going round and round on a big track for three hours? C’mon folks, give it up for my ingenuity!

Truth is… forty-something cars going an average of 180 miles per hour around a track is deafening. Something I had not quite thought about until the pre-race warm ups when we all stuffed our fingers in our ears, put our heads between our legs and began howling at the top of our lungs. Fortunately, for just two dollars, you too can own a pair of twenty cent ear plugs!

Truth is… sitting on the front row of the track is NOT where you want to be but that’s where the twins were. Though the rest of us were sitting a few rows higher and could see more of the track, we were in the direct sun. More than once I looked longingly at the upper shaded seats and ask myself why I didn’t research this venue just a little bit longer. Fortunately, I had remembered the sunscreen so Tom and Ryan lathered up, pulled their hats down over their eyes and took rather long snoozes — waking only for restarts when the crowd would stand and cheer as the cars lined up and started all over again.

Truth is… NASCAR turned out to be a very interesting observation in Southern culture. Miles and miles of campers and travel trailers were parked for the three-day racing event. On the one day we decided to join the fray — um, I  mean participate, we saw people coming into the track with hugh picnic baskets and then watched them graze all afternoon. And, although everyone was generally nice and playful during the race, I encountered some really hateful, angry fans afterward. In one case, while making our way through a torrent of fans to get back to our car which was parked a million miles away, one irate man screamed in my face, “Get out of my way!” The woman behind him followed closely, trying to soothe his soiled spirits. I stayed in my tracks, gave him my evil eye and demanded in my deepest, most Southern, alpha-female voice, “What the HELL is YOUR problem?” For a minute I thought he was going to clobber me but his “woman” navigated him to my side as I clinched my nine-year old’s hand tighter and inched myself back into the crowd, still glowering.

So why, oh why do I find myself scouring the sports section of every newspaper looking for NASCAR updates? Was there something in the water? Did someone spit on me without my knowing? Am I infected with anything that will make me sell the house, buy a forty foot trailer and follow my favorite renegade driver?

Hubby says it’s all Kyle Busch’s fault; that I couldn’t help but root for the bad boy on the track. I say it’s the fault of one Kyle Busch fan — the one that wore a T-shirt of Kyle Busch “on the pole.” I had no idea that being on the pole was actually a racing term at the time. It was certainly not made obvious on the T-shirt showing Kyle dancing in a teeny, tiny, thongy-thing around a pole. Let me just say, the pole was obvious and it had nothing to do with the race track!

You think that was photoshopped? I must confess, an extensive Google search on Kyle Busch apparel revealed nothing of the sort. Not sure how much longer my NASCAR enthusiasm will last, but I’m happy to note that even The New York Times follows NASCAR. Maybe it’s not just a Southern thing after all.

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