Saturday, July 09, 2005


WARNING : Very long!

We returned last Sunday afternoon from what we swore would be our last NASCAR race in Daytona. We love the sport and with my sister visiting from Texas to tag along, it was to be an especially fun road trip. But we're fed up dealing with all the drunks that go along with attending these events. Don't get me wrong, I can consume my share of alcohol but not like I see at the races. It's sort of like Mardi Gras at a race track. But, unless a big sponsor wants to treat us to VIP passes and private suite facilities, we aren't going again.

If you're not familiar with the sport, there are two series, leagues as it were. The equivalent to major league baseball is the Nextel Cup Series (Cup). The Busch Series are NASCAR'S minors though Cup drivers can race in the Busch series and vice versa. OK, if you are completely without a clue here, NASCAR is not a sanctioned sport as it were. There is no commissioner or anything like that. The "powers that be" are the France family who started the sport and who own and operate most everything involved. What the Walton family is to Wal-Mart and Sams, the France family is to NASCAR. The France family business just happens to be a sport. Sort of a professional wrestling on wheels but the races aren't fixed in the general sense of the term. It gets complicated after that so I'll just leave the explaining alone.

In light of my husband's heart condition, for the first time we took advantage of some of the handicapped facilities. This was most appreciated in the parking lots. There are three handicapped lots provided and in the past they have been practically impossible to get into. You see, here in Florida almost everyone has a handicapped placard or knows someone who does. Some "borrow" grandmother's or whatever and take advantage of the privilege. Not this year. The Florida Highway Patrol started confiscating them if the proper placard owner wasn't actually in the car. HURRAY! Fines of up to $1000 will be issued to those trying to use stolen passes.

There are also golf carts provided to transport those who need assistance. We learned that many drunks believe their impairment is a handicap and get most annoyed when the volunteers who drive the golf carts won't give them a ride back to their truck where they left the BIG cooler. In the stands there is an elevator provided to those not able to climb the stairs. While waiting our turn on Saturday, a very inebriated young man came up to me and wanted to know just why we were in the line. (A heart attack provides an invisible handicap and we were often required to explain why we were asking for the assistance.) I told the young man to be careful what he wished for. If he had a heart attack, he too could avoid the long walks and stairs as well. He actually agreed and apologized.

NASCAR is the sport of red necks. I don't put myself in that category but then maybe I should. It does seem to draw a strange group of folks together. Lisa Marie Presley was the pre-race entertainment on Saturday evening. Donald Rumsfeld was on hand for the "gentleman start your engines" part and JoJo sang the National Anthem... and it rained buckets all weekend.

We went over on Thursday, stopping in Orlando at an outlet mall for some shopping and to find a hotel room. On to Daytona about noon to check out the "midway" and festivities. The midway is full of driver's souvenir trailers and there are also areas set up by the different sponsors promoting their wares. Lots of goodie bags and giveaways. Also lots of beer drinking which starts early in the day at these things.

Night races are especially interesting as those who indulge like to begin early and are pretty lit by race time. I have never been to a race where someone around us hasn't been passed out in their seat. Last weekend was no exception. After paying for event tickets for three days plus gas, hotel, souvenirs etc., I can't imagine drinking so much you don't watch the race or even remember it!

Friday night's Busch race wasn't quite as crowded as Saturday's Cup race. Word has it, when there is a big Cup race in Daytona there are a quarter of a million people at the track. That includes employees, cops, fans, crews... everyone... but 250 THOUSAND people all in one place is really something. Add alcohol and it becomes a circus where twenty ounce beers are "single servings." Bobby was the lucky one who got to sit next to the drunk chain smoker this year. This guy was probably in his late 50's but maybe not. His wife drank beer one right after the other but he brought in bourbon in a 2 liter Sprite bottle and drank that like Kool Aid.

When we left the handicapped parking lot for the last time Saturday - well, really Sunday morning - we witnessed an interesting altercation. The car that had been parked next to us all day had been patiently waiting in line for their turn to pull out into traffic. About the time they were creeping forward a green Blazer came out of nowhere and tried to cut them off. They didn't let them in but the Blazer driver tried to bully his way in by pulling up next to them still trying to make them yield their place in line. Just as the line moved again a mini-van from Ohio tried doing the same thing to the green Blazer. And so it began.

An fellow probably in his late 60's or so, jumped out of the Blazer's back seat and began pounding on Ohio's window cursing and screaming. Ohio rolled down his window and yelled back. Then Blazer guy walked in front of Ohio's mini-van and leaned against the front hood to keep him from moving into traffic. THEN a passenger got out of Ohio's back seat and started yelling at Blazer guy when yet another guy from the Blazer got out and also leaned against the van. I took a picture from our van and the other cars around applauded. Next thing you know there was pushing and shoving which didn't last long and everybody went back to their vehicles before anybody got hurt. The Blazer driver started letting in every other car in the parking lot to keep Ohio from moving. We pulled out of line and headed for a different exit with Ohio right behind us. The driver of the Blazer got out and walked away all mad and the bully in the back seat took over the driving duties. Later, as we inched our way down the street, the police were walking between vehicles clearly looking for someone. When we saw them pull Ohio over. Bobby rolled down the window and told the cop what we had seen. Apparently Blazer guy had called the police and reported he'd been assaulted! I told the cop the Blazer guy started it and if he had stayed in his vehicle none of it would have happened in the first place. Ahhhhhh.... alcohol is a wonderful thing.

The very first race I ever attended was the Daytona 500 in 2001. We were the guest of a sponsor for Bobby Labonte's car. We were provided beautiful accommodations in an Orlando hotel including lovely buffets for breakfast and dinner. We were given goodie bags full of racing merchandise. Shirts, jackets, hats, programs, etc. We were bussed in air conditioned private coaches to the race track and driven into the infield next to our private paddock suite right above pit road. Once there we were provided meals, drinks and snacks all day and radio scanners to listen to the drivers talk to their crews. Bobby Labonte and Joe Gibbs both spoke to our small group, answered questions then gladly obliged with photos and autographs for everyone. After the race we were once again driven back to our hotel for our nice dinner and a good night's sleep. Now THAT'S the way to go racing!!!


At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I repeat, Finally.
But you left out the part about the bad teeth.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger sttropezbutler said...

What can I say. As a man who has had his share of experiences at baseball games with fans who'd had a tad to much to drink...I can fully understand what you are saying. Tis amazing that so many people feel that this behavivor is acceptable. And more amazing is that get into their cars and drive home! I certainly understand you never returning. What's the point. Glad to see a post!

At 8:46 PM, Blogger ConnieJane said...

Dear Anonymous,

aka RQM?

I also left out the part about the tattoos but that's a whole other post!


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