Tag Archives: Richmond

My First NASCAR Race Experience

6 May

Saturday, April 28, 2012 – Richmond, Virginia

I left my house around 9:00 AM on Saturday, picked up my friend Tom (name changed), and drove south on I-95 to Richmond. A little north of Richmond, Tom said:

“Well, I just saw my first confederate flag of the day. I guess we have arrived.”

We got to Richmond shortly before 11:00 AM, met up with my friend Phil (name changed), and headed to the closest Kroger to load up on tailgate essentials. As we walked into the store, I noticed a lot of people wearing their NASCAR gear (mostly #24 hats and jackets).

Next, we headed to Jimmy Johns to grab some lunch. (Clutch decision of the day #1: buying two extra #5 VITO sandwiches for later in the day).

After lunch, we jumped in Phil’s car and drove to the track. We arrived around 12:30 PM and were able to park for free. (ALL sporting events should have this). As we got out of the car to set up our tailgate, we heard someone nearby yell:

“LET’S GET DRUUUUUNK!!!”

…and then the rain started.

The “open flame a few feet from the gas tank in the truck bed” idea seems unsafe to me, but why not?

After sitting out in the rain for all of 20 seconds (just enough time to throw on my poncho), we decided we’d prefer to be dry when the race started in 6+ hours, so we got back in the car and continued our tailgate rain-free.

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The family that parked next to us was very nice and we exchanged the usual pleasantries when we first arrived. Unfortunately, I had no idea what they were saying, so I just smiled and nodded.

One of their kids had a rattail, which I thought was outlawed after Y2K, but I guess not.

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Close to our parking spot, we noticed a large group of students from James Madison University (my alma mater) setting up their tailgate behind the pickup truck that they had all apparently piled into to get to the race.

(Side note: I believe this area is where the “Let’s get drunk!!!” scream came from earlier – no surprise considering JMU‘s reputation as a “party school”).

Several of the girls in this group quickly climbed onto the roof of the pickup truck and began dancing on it, drinks in hand. (This would continue throughout the day).

I should have realized at this point that a large majority of this group (if not everyone in the group) did not actually have tickets to the race and simply came to tailgate.

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At one point, Tom came back from a restroom visit and shared this awesome one-liner he overheard in the parking lot:

“It’s shakin’ worse than Jello on a dirt road.”

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Each time the rain stopped over the course of the afternoon, we took the opportunity to walk around the parking lot and “people-watch.”

Almost everyone was playing corn-hole and/or grilling, and we saw plenty of UVA and Virginia Tech tailgates. Pretty much every tailgate was rocking out to country music.

We noticed several “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and quite a few confederate flags hanging proudly above various tailgates. It was also hard to miss the anti-Obama group in the parking lot.

(How could I forget to include “conservative republicans” in my NASCAR stereotypes post??).

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As we walked through the parking lot, Phil observed:

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many F-150s in one place.”

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Later in the afternoon, I ran into a girl I knew from JMU. Her friend told me that the fly-over was the coolest part of the pre-race festivities, and that we definitely shouldn’t miss it.

Thus, around 6:30 PM, we left our car and headed toward the track, walking past the huge Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. merchandise trucks on our way in.

The security check was non-existent. They simply scanned our tickets and allowed us to walk right in. No one checked my drawstring bag, or the cooler bag I had with me. Ditto for my two friends.

We got to our seats in time for the fly-over, the invocation, and the “Gentlemen: Start… Your… Engines!” command.

I really wasn’t that impressed by the fly-over, and neither were Tom or Phil. I’m pretty sure the two planes had propellers, and they looked like they were from World War I. (I was expecting F-16s, but no dice).

There were a significant number of empty seats around us in the stadium, which surprised me a little bit, considering how many cars were parked outside. Of the fans I saw inside, I’d say at least 50% were wearing their favorite driver’s gear, and maybe 25% of them had rented the race scanners. I didn’t notice anyone without ear plugs or ear-muffs.

There was a guy a few rows in front of us wearing #2 gear from head to toe. Every time Brad Keselowski drove past us during the race, the guy stood up and fist pumped 3 times. No more, no less. Always 3 times. With oomph.

If you look carefully in the bottom-left corner, you can see Brad Keselowski’s #1 fan (in blue).

The race itself was pretty repetitive. The coolest parts (for me) were the beginning of the race, and the restarts. Every time the cars went from real slow to real fast (really quickly), it looked really awesome live.

I wore a set of ear-muffs during the race to block out the noise, and inside the ear-muffs I had a set of ear buds that allowed me to listen to the race on the radio. Unfortunately, I was dealing with a lot of static since it was an AM station, and I quickly gave up on this endeavor.

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Two people texted me during the race to ask how the race was. I answered both texts the same way:

“LOUD!”

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Halfway into the race, Tom, Phil, and I made the decision to leave at Lap 300 (of 400), for two reasons:

  1. Someone told Phil before the race that it could take up to 3 hours to exit the parking lot if we stayed until the end of the race, and
  2. We were pretty bored. (Tom even fell asleep for a few seconds when we first arrived at our seats, believe it or not).

As we exited the stadium, we walked past Danica Patrick‘s merchandise truck, and several others that we had missed earlier in the day. When we got to Phil’s car, we turned on the radio to listen to the end of the race, and we got out of the parking lot without fighting any traffic.

Tom had been raving to me about a fast food place called “Cookout” that he discovered while at school in North Carolina, and it turned out that there was one in Richmond, too. We decided to go there after the race and pulled into the parking lot just as Kyle Busch took the checkered flag. In his honor, I ordered an M&Ms “fancy shake” at Cookout, along with some very greasy, very disgusting fast food.

Finally, we drove back to Phil’s place and crashed for the night. It had been a pretty exhausting, but fun day.

You can get pretty darn close to the action at Richmond International Raceway.

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A few final notes about my experience:

  • Judging from the amount of #24 and #88 gear I saw around the track, I’d say Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. have to be the two most popular drivers in NASCAR. Jimmie Johnson is a close third.
  • Having experienced a NASCAR race without the race scanners or personal television sets, I now understand why people pay $50 or more to rent them. When you are watching cars racing in circles and suddenly they slow down for a caution, it’s impossible to know what is going on without the scanners.
  • Overall, I found most of the NASCAR stereotypes to be true. The crowd was over 95% Caucasian and mostly southern, and almost everyone was listening to country music before the race (just to name a few examples).
  • Richmond is one of the smaller tracks on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, so we could see the whole track, which was cool. If I go to another race, I think I’d like to experience one of the larger (1.5 mile or larger) tracks.

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People have asked me since the race: “Would you go back?”

Short answer: Yes, I would.

If I ever go to another NASCAR race though, I’ll either rent one of the portable TVs and watch the race from my tailgate with a group of friends, or buy tickets and rent a race scanner to use at my seat inside.

My friends and I enjoyed the race, but we all thought it would have been even more fun with better weather and a bigger group of people.

Hmm, maybe a road trip to Daytona is in order?

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Race Preview: Richmond 400 (Spring Edition)

23 Apr

[In case you missed it, I’m going to my first NASCAR race this Saturday in Richmond, which is why my race preview is up so early this week…]

I Wikipedia-edRichmond 400,” and learned that this is one of the few races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule without a title sponsor (hence the boring logo below).

I also learned that Kyle Busch has won the last three spring races at Richmond, which is incredible to me. Can he make it four straight on Saturday?

They’ll run this one under the lights, with television coverage on FOX starting at 7:00 PM EDT, and the race itself starting at 7:44 PM EDT.

Below the logo, find everything you need to know to prepare for the race.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Richmond 400 (spring race)

  • Location: Richmond, Virginia
  • Track name: Richmond International Raceway
  • Track shape: Oval
  • Banking: 14 degrees
  • Lap length: 0.75 miles
  • Race distance: 400 laps / 300 miles
  • Pole sitter: TBD
  • Starting order: TBD

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I plan to be at the track pretty early on Saturday so I can take in the full NASCAR experience.

If you have any suggestions for me on how to make the most of this cultural experience, tweet me at @NASCARneophyte or shoot me an email at NASCARneophyte@gmail.com.

I’ll try to tweet as much as possible while I’m at the race, and I’ll be posting a full recap with pictures afterward, so be on the lookout for that.

Enjoy the race everyone. I’m sure I will!