Take in a Race, don't just watch

Dale Wilkerson                                                                May 2010

               Sometimes we just go through the motions when we attend events at our local racetracks. We walk in and take our seat in the bleachers or grab a wrench and start working on a racecar, without really looking around to see what is going on around us.

                Early arriving fans can spot a new team to their favorite track from a mile away. If it is not a recognized driver, folks are guessing as to where the new driver is from by checking sponsor names and phone numbers on the car, dealer insignias on the truck pulling the car, and then for winners stickers posted on the car. Some fans have it figured out before the announcer reads the starting grid before the heat races.

                Kids are the best to watch. Some bring a sack full of matchbox size cars with them. They will smooth out a little track and line their cars up for their play race. When the real racecars roll out it only helps the kids with their sound effects. That might have a Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, or Dale Jr. car among the ones they are playing with but you can bet a couple of those toys have names like Rambo, Timbo, Smokey, Fergy, The Lady Driver, Kid-Quick, or Bloomer as well.

                It is easy to spot the folks that didn’t like the outcome of a race in the previous week. You will see a couple of guys pointing to a turn or a spot on the wall. One might get a little louder and then walk off, but later you will see both of them talking about something else without a thought about what happened last week and why they were mad at each other.

                The kids’ meeting is always a fun time, and don’t let the announcer call for the chicken dance. Kids will yell for candy, dance for candy, and if they need to answer a trivia question, they will give that a shot as well. What is fun though, is when one of the older kids scoops up a bunch of candy to give it to the smaller ones because when he was little, somebody made sure he got candy each race night.

                When the water truck parks for the final time after intermission, and the first feature race rolls out, you can just sense the intensity amp up in the fans.  Sometimes the fans get more revved up than racecars, and if bonus money is on the line, the fans are even more excited, hoping to see their favorite driver grab the top prize.

                We all know that emotions run high whether it is on the track, in the pits, or in the stands. When tempers boil over near the scales, don’t just look to see who is throwing punches or waving protest money, look to see who came to watch. Some drivers will ease up to the back of the crowd and shake their heads about the proceedings remembering times when they were threatened with a trip to the ‘Gray Bar Hotel’ as the late Marty Collins would report for the Chester News and Reporter.

                Watching how the drivers react to a race win in

Victory Lane

is always fun, no matter if it is a first time winner or a seasoned veteran. Drivers thank Jesus for their talent and a safe race, their crews for their hard work, their fans and their sponsors for their continued support.  Family, crew members and fans will make their way over hoping to get in a picture with the winner while some fans wave from the grandstands just hoping for a wave back from their favorite driver.

                After the race is over, you might hear a young boy cheer as his favorite driver walks by him to pick up the trophy and prize money for their night’s work. You will see competitors helping each other load up for the ride home and perhaps talking about stopping for a late meal on the way out of town. Sometimes, you will see a race winner hand their trophy to a young fan, putting a Christmas morning smile on the driver, the child, and both families.

                This week at the track you attend, take some time to look around you. Don’t just watch the race, take in the race.