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Monday, March 8, 2010

Shit rolls down the mountain at NASCAR

My first NASCAR experience at a race was so action-packed.  I'm going to attempt to find the humor in this.  I'm sure there will be references to this in future blogs.  The day had so much, it seems like it should have been three or four days.

No, I am not a NASCAR fan. No, I am not from the South. But I am from a very small town in the Midwest, which I guess qualifies me to be a redneck on the inside. I guess my inner-self has a mullet? I don’t really know. I have one Southern syllable – ong always comes out “oung”, so words like wrong, song, etc make me sound like I’m from here. Whatever that means.

I’ve only watched three races, plus the half-race I saw live. And they have all been this season. My friend, Kelly (also not from the South) loves NASCAR. She asked me to give it a try, because I like sports in general, and we will be roommates soon. Being the open-minded person I am, I agreed (after three years of her telling me to give it a try). The Kobalt Tools 500 was in Atlanta this weekend, so we went.

The day started like any other road trip we take together. EARLY and at Starbucks. We talked and laughed all the way to the track, which is not in Atlanta, as I soon learned. It is south of Atlanta, in a town called Hampton. I was actually pretty excited, because as any sports fan knows, you can watch all you want on TV, but until you see a sport live, it isn’t a sport.

Pre-race (yep, getting the lingo down) didn’t start until noon, but we got to the track about 8:30 in the morning. There is a lot going on in the morning. I learned that people camp out for the whole weekend, cooking out, drinking, and watching the qualifying races. There are every kind of booth and selling point you can imagine. Every driver has a trailer dedicated to his merchandise. There is all the heart attack-inducing food you can eat yourself to death with. There was even a Camel Smokehouse. I was so intrigued, but couldn’t bring myself to go in, even though I am a smoker. On that note, apparently NASCAR is the only smoker-friendly sport left. I started to walk away from the crowds to smoke when it was pointed out that everyone is smoking. (You can even smoke in the stands!) It is an awkward freedom. Georgia is a no-smoking state and to be able to smoke indoors means 1. the establishment does not allow children, or 2. you own the house you are smoking in. As a smoker, one would think I was in paradise, but I was uncomfortable with this.

I bought a hat to support my driver, Kasey Kahne. I picked him, because Kelly told me four weeks ago as I was about to watch my first race, that I had to pick a driver. I originally wanted to pick Mike Bliss, but was told I couldn’t. She is right. In spite of his wonderful name, he is always in the back. And I’m too competitive to have a losing driver. So, if I can’t have my namesake, I will have my favorite number, 9. So I root for Kasey Kahne. And I have the hat to prove it.

A friend was working one of the booths for oral health checks. What a great place to have this! All the smokers within a 200-mile radius are at this event! The booth is set up to check for oral cancer and other things that smoking causes in the mouth. So, of course I had to go. Obsessed with my teeth, supporting a friend, these are the best reasons to participate! So, after walking around, laughing and not eating until after someone looks our mouths, we trotted over to get the good news that our mouths are beautiful.

Time to head to our seats. 36 rows up. Straight up. No need to go to the gym today (or tomorrow for that matter)!
We got to our seats about 15 minutes before pre-race. We got some good pictures of the track and each other. Especially me in that headset! I was learning quickly that normal-looking people like this sport, too. (In fact, we only saw one person with a mullet.) We were talking about the experience so far.

On the way in, we had seen a cup of coffee and donuts on the back of a truck, and wondered it would still be there when we were leaving. People were nice. People were interesting. People were fun to watch.

The anticipation was building.

Headsets, check. Scanner, check. Drinks, camera, ear plugs, check.

NASCAR is exciting. The headsets drown out a lot of the noise and enable me to listen to Mr. Kasey Kahne talk to his pit crew. That’s cool. The first 60 laps were super! Kasey was battling between first and second place the whole time!

Then, the downfall. Literally. The scanner fell. Down. Down 36 rows of aluminum, bounce, bounce, bounce. Kelly went down to retrieve it. Yep, broken. We sat there for about 15 minutes, not knowing what was going on or what to do. We finally made our walk of shame down the bleachers to return it and see what could be done. $180 dollars is what could be done. And they only took credit cards, so they have Kelly’s information. The lady said that if it can be repaired, they could possibly only charge for the repair cost.

Stunned, and with tears streaming down Kelly’s cheeks, we made our way to the nearest bench. I didn’t know what to say.

Once again, we were sitting in silence.

She finally said, “Let’s go.” So we went.

We walked to the car, slowly. We reveled in the fact that what had once looked like a booming area was suddenly like a ghost town. Just the trailers and concession stands remained. No lines. No loudness. Just the vendors cleaning up. We began to laugh again, if nothing else, to simply get through the feeling.

Then we saw it. The spot where the donuts and coffee had been on the truck. The donuts remained. The coffee cup remained. But there was no truck. And there was a beer can. Oddness. But it made us laugh harder. We decided it had been a good day, in spite of everything.

Flash forward an hour and a half later. Exhausted, both mentally and physically, we stopped to get some dinner. I went to get my wallet out of my backpack, and it is not there.


We pulled everything out of my car, and the trunk. Everything. Piece by piece we ripped my car apart. We crawled down to look under the seats. No wallet.

My turn to have a breakdown. My debit card, my driver’s license, and all the cash I had (50 bucks) was gone. And I had no idea how or where or what had happened. I suddenly felt like Kelly and I were standing in the middle of a mountain that shit was sliding down. In the middle. So we were nowhere near the top or the bottom, where we could be safe from the shit.

I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I am not a crier, but I do tend to hyperventilate a little. I also stop thinking and not know what to do. It would be so much easier to just cry.

But then comes the right thoughts. And the action plan.

Call the bank. Cancel the card.

Look up the DMV hours.

Call mom and get a copy of my birth certificate.

I got up an hour early today to go to the DMV and get my license, so I can go to the bank with a picture ID so I can get a card. Good action plan. I’m going to get off this mountain.

So I get to the DMV and the parking lot is empty. SWEET! No lines! I walk up to the door and see that they are closed. Closed. They are not open on Mondays.

Back on the mountain.

I went to the bank without a picture ID, hopeful but not. Luckily, I was able to get an temporary ATM card. So maybe I’m a little farther up the mountain.

The rest of today, I spent with friends helping them set up a good part of their life. And I even got to read a little. Relax and read. I’m hopeful that by tomorrow after I wake up an hour early again, I’ll be on the top of the mountain, away from the sliding shit.

I still like NASCAR. Maybe I’ll even attempt another race again. We’ll see.


  1. Omg! What a friggin' day. Can't believe after all that you're going back. I'd have to throw in the NASCAR're braver than I am.

    Good luck on a quick reconstruction. And up to the top of that mountain again.

  2. I like the last sentence. I was really worried that you would look back on Sunday and think "I hate NASCAR!"

    Glad that's not the case.

  3. I'm not a NASCAR fan, but I can see where it would be a blast. I hope that you have been successful with card cancellations and getting a new license.