Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Rock

Today marked the return of racing to The Rock. Formerly known as the North Carolina Motor Speedway during its NASCAR days (which ended in 2004), the track is now called the Rockingham Speedway. It's always been one of my favorite tracks, and I attended approximately 12-15 NASCAR races there over the years. It's a mean old piece of asphalt with a very abrasive surface, and measures 1.017 miles in length. I'm lucky enough to have seen Dale Earnhardt, Sr. win there even – I kinda remember Bobby Hamilton "backing up" into Dale's front bumper coming out of turn two, ha-ha-ha…

So, anyway, the race today was part of the ARCA Series, basically a step below NASCAR. The cars these boys run, though, are last year's Sprint Cup cars and you can believe they're plenty fast. A lot of the drivers in this series don't have the level of experience you'll find in the Cup drivers – some are up & coming, some are on the downhill slope. Ages today range from 17 year-old Joey Logano (who won the race in a Joe Gibbs Racing prepared car) to some dude who is 74 years old! Yikes!

I went with my racin' buddy Foy Beal, Carina Muehl, and her friend Kevin. Foy picked me up at 7:30am, we met Carina & Kevin in the Whole Foods parking lot a few minutes later, and off we went.

One of the Rockingham racing traditions is to stop at the Bojangles in Aberdeen for breakfast. Made it there about 9:15. This is where the first beers are usually cracked, and as much as I hated to break a tradition, I just wasn't in the mood.

We got a great parking spot at the track (probably due to the light attendance), whipped out chairs, sunscreen and coolers, and the day began in earnest. First Bud, about 10:15 or so.

If you've ever been to a NASCAR race before, you're familiar with the dozens of merchandise trailers selling all the driver swag and more. None of that here today, which sucks, because there's a driver named Darrell Bashem driving car #34, and his sponsor is Anti-Monkey Butt Powder. Yep, you read that right. Anti-Monkey Butt Powder. I'd fork over my $25 for a shirt in a heartbeat. I guess there's just not enough interest in this series to justify the expense of selling sponsor merch.

The race started about noon, and because of the size of the field (49 cars vs. the NASCAR standard of 43) and the inexperience of some of the drivers, there were a decent number of wrecks. Lots of good old-fashioned tight-quarters racing, and again, I really love this track.

After the race, the crowd (probably around 12,000), was allowed to cross the track and walk around on Pit Road. Got to see some of the cars up close, which was cool.

We were on our way home by about 3:30 or so. And once we got back to Raleigh, Foy and I couldn't resist stopping by Northside for a cold one. Or two. Or three. I finally got home about 9pm…

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