So I have mentioned it recently that I am a race fan..Nascar in particular. This revelation might be new to some of you…but it isn’t new to my heart. I have been a race fan since before I could drive. I have been a race fan as long as I can remember!
The INDY 500 was always like…the Superbowl in my house when I was growing up (not that we don’t watch the superbowl too but you get my drift). Bubble day was our playoff games. I think I got into it as a way of bonding with my father (not that we didn’t have a bond..but he and my brother had hunting and camping…and my dad and I had racing). And got into it I did. I LOVED racing…any form of racing…but especially CART…or as we called them “INDY CARS.” Let’s just say- I knew the words the “Back Home Again (in Indiana)” before the words to my own state song! And what 5 and 6 year old knows who Jim Nabors is? I did. Don’t get me wrong…we watched stock car racing (nascar) back when the sponsors were mostly oil companies and ciggarette companies (when the Nextel Cup…was called the Winston Cup). Back when DW drove instead of commentated. Oh and if all we could find on Sunday was some drag racing…it didn’t stop us from watching. (wheels and fast…see it is a theme!)
My love affair with anything fast (with wheels) continued. I remember one summer I must have watched Heart Like A Wheel (the story of the Shirley Muldowney- the first woman in Drag Racing) about a zillion times (it was either on HBO or Showtime- I don’t remember which). I wanted to be like Shirley Muldowney! Then towards 1985ish I became a total tomboy and instead of having my room plastered with pictures of movie stars and pop stars…my room was plastered with race cars, Lamborghini posters, anything fast with wheels. Many of my little brother’s friends weren’t sure who’s bedroom was who’s at the time.
Then as I got into high school my room started looking more like a typical teenage girls room. Lamborghini posters were taken down to make room for Posion and Guns N Roses, and of course, Slaughter posters (Ok…maybe not TYPICAL teenage girl…but teenage metal-loving girl yes). My friends didn’t understand my love of “racing” so it sat on a back shelf and rapidly started collecting dust. Then some time around 10th grade or so- my dad surprised me with three-day race tickets to see “The Indy Cars” at Laguna Seca (a race track about 10-15 minutes from my house). I even got out of school on Friday to be able to go. Part of me was excited. Part of me was embarassed (hey it was high school). I thought we would go and sit in some bleachers for hours on end and watch cars…but he surprised me by getting paddock passes too so we could wander around the garage area…and then…I was hooked again.
Being in the garage area at an Indy race was so fascinating to me. It was an assault on your senses. LOUD engines being tested, the smell of oil and rubber, colorful cars, people running all over with a job to get this or test that. It amazed me. And then I saw him. I recognized him from TV…A.J. Foyt was standing next to his hauler in his firesuit having just run some practice laps. He was a lot bigger than I imagined…and slightly scary looking to me. I just stared and kinda went “Isn’t that?” My dad stopped and saw what I was looking at and dragged me over to him (yes dragged…you have to remember I was painfully shy back then) and we got his autograph and my dad took some pictures. Then it was like a game…who could I recognize? I even saw Mario Andretti but didn’t get his autograph…he was jogging towards the pits in a hurry…I then decided I needed to seek out my favorite drivers: Danny Sullivan (whom I found and got his autograph) and Al Unser Jr. (whom I didn’t find). I also found Scott Pruett – at the peak of his Indy career (before the crash in Florida) and ended up dragging my dad to him because I thought he was cute. It was fun…it was hands on…and we had kick ass seats on turn 11 at Laguna (before the built the pit suites- which block most of the view). I had a blast and was hooked again.
Yeah yeah you are probably asking yourself why am I such a fan of NASCAR if I started out as such a CART fan…and I honestly don’t have an answer except that I think it is because NASCAR (or STOCK cars) look more like “real” cars then their open wheel counter parts.
True story: my first car was a 1990 Chevy Lumina Euro Sedan (not the minivan) that I inherited from my parents. I am 99% sure that the reason my dad bought that car (although I am sure he would deny it lock stock and barrel today) is because it was THE car that the NASCAR chevy teams switched to the year it came out…and being featured heavily in the movie DAYS OF THUNDER didn’t hurt.
Plus it didn’t help when CART split into IRL and CHAMP and half of my favorite drivers went one way and the the other half the other way. I was confused and frankly didn’t understand the difference or the purpose of that move…and mostly- I still don’t.
So now instead of dreaming of attending the INDY 500 I dream of attending a NASCAR race (my dad says stock cars use to race at Laguna Seca but they don’t any more…and I want an oval…not a road course). Of course if I am going to go with my dad we will have an argument over where to go…He is all about Talladega (big superspeedway) and I am all about Bristol (short track bumping and grinding).
Anyway…gentleman…start your engines!