My NASCAR experience-Column
When I was a younger, I had a fascination with mechanical things, including cars. That translated into becoming a fan of all sorts of racing, including NASCAR, for much of my youth. I cheered exclusively for Jeff Gordon, mostly because he won a lot of races and his “Rainbow Warrior” car was quite colorful during the mid to late-90s. As I grew older, I realized that Jeff Gordon was not the only driver having success for car owner Rick Hendrick. That was when Jimmie Johnson burst onto the scene.
In the last six years or so, my interest in NASCAR faded a bit. I went from watching every race I possibly could and being disappointed about missing a race to missing the majority of races in the season except for the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and the two road course races.
Last month, I pulled a feat almost as daring as Kurt Busch attempting the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double-header. I watched every lap of the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, Indianapolis 500 and Coca Cola 600.
That day of continuous racing on television, with a little baseball thrown in between races, reinvigorated my desire for car racing so much that this past weekend, I went to my first NASCAR race at the Quicken Loans 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan with some friends who live a little more than an hour away from the two-mile oval track.
Overall, my mind was blown by the experience of the race weekend, from all of the souvenir haulers to fan activity displays set up by team and series sponsors, to the action on the track itself.
To start, I really have to admit that I was caught off guard by how loud 43 stock cars are as they all begin to speed up, but at the same time, the exhilaration of sitting 300 yards or so prior to the start-finish line was amazing.
I was also caught off guard by the boo-to-cheer ratio for Kyle Busch, younger brother of Kurt. Kyle has a reputation of being what some call a “punk” and that was evident during driver introductions of both the Nationwide Series race Saturday and the Sprint Cup Series race Sunday, when on both occasions he was booed more than he was cheered on, from my estimation of the crowd around me. I knew that the younger Busch had gotten on the nerves of a lot of people around the sport, but did not quite realize the extent of that sentiment.
As for the racing itself, both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races featured drivers who were involved in early accidents making their way back up through the field. In the Nationwide race, Sam Hornish Jr. lost control of his No. 20 car within the first handful of laps, then managed to work his way into second place by the end of the 125 lap event.
The same happened for Sprint Cup Series rookie Kyle Larson, who spun his No. 42 machine on the backstretch and only had minor damage to his rear bumper. He went on to finish eighth Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, I was in attendance to see Johnson win his first race at Michigan International Speedway, which is quite a milestone considering he has won on all but five tracks he has ever raced on in the Sprint Cup Series. Of those five, Kentucky has been on the schedule for just a couple of years and NASCAR’s top series has not been to Rockingham in a decade.
Based on my experience this past weekend, I fully intend on attending more NASCAR races, because it was completely unmatched by any other spectator event I have ever been to.
Braxton Crisp can be contacted at email@example.com.
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