Monday, August 18, 2008

Brenda and I Go Racing

Since I've become a NASCAR aficionado, I decided I should see a real live race. I doubt that I will ever manage an actual Sprint Cup race so Brenda and I went over to Kokomo, which featured Sprint Cars, Stock Cars and Thunder Cars. Kokomo is a dirt track.

Most of the crowd at Kokomo appeared to be old hands. Brenda and I were probably notable for newbies by our ignorance. The first thing we did wrong was choose our seats on the bleachers, a few rows below everyone else. We settled in with our purses, our bags of popcorns and our sodas and waited for the racing to begin. As soon as as the first Sprint cars rounded the track in our direction, we were hit by a hailstorm of mud. Daubs of dirt, ranging in size from a pea to a walnut, pelted us - it flung itself into our hair, cracked against our glasses, landed in our laps, our purses, popcorn and our pop.

So what do you do next? Simply sit there and pretend you like the up-close and personal experience of being smacked around by gobbets of clay? That is looks good, tastes good, feels good, smells good? Or do you simply move up the bleachers with as much dignity as you can muster, knowing that the regulars are laughing at you, having wondered why you selected those seats in the first place? We chose to stay for one more lap and then pretend we needed to use the restroom, moving in a safer location when we returned.

Our amateurishness was probably also characterized by our complete cluelessness about what was going on.

When the first vehicles came onto the track, we looked at one another before asking simultaneously, "what are those?" We looked in the freebie magazine we'd been given but of course, like most trade publications, it assumed a certain amount of elemental knowledge on the part of its readers, like, for instance, which cars are which.

Someone nearby overheard our question and explained that they were Sprint cars. They are called "cars" even though they don't resemble any kind of car you ever saw in your life, more like those basket seats utilized by some rides at the fair but with an engine and wheels added. They are tiny, appearing barely big enough for the driver to squeeze into. They fly lightly around the track, as if they are going to spread wings and take flight at any moment. Speed on the straight-away is important, of course, but as with most other race vehicles, expert cornering, which with Sprint cars means sliding, seems to make the difference between winning and losing.

Then came the stock cars. Most of these guys looked to be held together with duck tape and binder twine. You wondered if they would make all their laps without falling into a heap on the middle of the track. Some of them didn't.

After the stock cars, were the thunder cars. They looked exactly like the stock cars to me and I never did learn the difference between the two designations.

The various vehicles coughed and smoked and rattled with loose parts. God, I know this is going to make me sound like such a snob but I have grown used to the ultra-clean, sleek machines of NASCAR. I am used to sitting in my air-conditioned living room in a comfortable recliner. I am used to drinking mudless pop and clayless corn. I am used to breathing exhaustless air. I am used to being able to turn down the roaring, by means of remote control, if it starts to give me a headache.

I don't think my attitude constitutes racing snobbery though, as much as old age. I don't actually even have any desire to see an actual NASCAR Cup race. I've read about the traffic and the distant parking and the crowds and the heat and the relentless noise and the choking smells. When I was in my early 20's, I considered myself a Woodstock type of person. I've matured into preferring my concerts at the Embassy Theater. Pretty much the same with racing, I think.

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