Voices From the Cheap Seats · Jeff Meyer · Friday August 30, 2013
As long time readers know, with a rare exception last year, I always attend the Bristol night race as a fan, not a member of the media.
Up until a couple of years ago, when I moved to Knoxville, TN, the annual trip involved lots of planning, lots of not drinking beer the month before in order to save money (and to give my liver a rest for the shock to come), followed by a grueling one way drive of 14 or so hours with a few close amigos, setting up the campsite and then giving my liver a good pep talk as the first beverage trickled into my system.
All in all, it was always a very fun week of making new friends, trying new beverages, sleep deprivation and of course, making lasting memories (not to mention impressions!).
One of the hardest things to stomach every year was the fact that about a month after we got back, we had to pony up the cash to pay next year’s tickets. This was, of course, back when the Bristol night race was one of the hardest tickets in all of sports to get. We never worried about getting the tickets, as we had a very reliable source that would seat us in just about any section of the great coliseum we were willing to pay for. The real hardship was not being able to enjoy as many beverages as I might have liked the second month after the race, for which I’m sure my liver is grateful.
Nowadays, it is a whole different story.
The drive is only about an hour and a half. The tall, blonde, beautiful, Canadian nurse with whom I reside insisted we become season ticket holders, so we are. After all, if momma ain’t happy… well, you know the rest! Just the fact that we are able to become season ticket holders at such a storied track speaks volumes in itself of the vast differences that exist from then until now!
All of these changes over the last few years have always set my mind to thinking every time I now attend a race there. At first, I was sad. But now that I have experienced it all without the sellout crowds for a couple of years, I’m finding that it is actually more enjoyable.
The campground we have frequented all the years since my first race there in ’01 is very nice and has excellent amenities. Over the years, those amenities have gotten better and better as the cash was a rolling in! At one point, during a conversation with one of the family members of the family that owns the campground, it was admitted to my friend and I that each race week (March and August) netted the family around half a million. I have no way of confirming that, of course, but that is what we were told.
While that is positively not the case now, I have found that having open spaces around you, while not even thought of a few years ago, is not a bad thing. I used to take my daily shower at about 3 AM in order to avoid long lines at the shower house, not to mention get some not so hot water. Now… not a line at all at 10 in the morning, and the water is actually hot!
NASCAR’s decline has not only made camping more relaxed (and less expensive), it has also led to more enjoyable times at the track. Of course, we’re not talking shower lines here but when you have to make water of your own, you can actually do it during a short caution period! In most cases you can dispense of one beverage, purchase another and return to your seat before the lights are out on the pace car, and that is always a good thing.
In short, the whole experience is a lot less tense while still providing the same fun times or even better times for your buck. This, in turn gives more people the chance to realize their dream of attending a Bristol night race where as it was once an almost impossibility.
Or maybe, as I am getting older, just the thought of NOT having to spend 14 hours (one way!) in a vehicle with snoring, farting friends is enough.
Either way, I still have fun and this year was no exception.
I only wish Kasey Kahne had elected to make “Bristol highlight history” but I guess he had too much respect for Dale Sr. and Terry Labonte to do that. Not that he didn’t have the chance, but hey, it’s Bristol Baby! It’s all good.
Stay off the wall,
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