Toni Montgomery · Tuesday June 6, 2006
Two weeks ago, I was one of those lucky folks enjoying the rainy weather at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the All-Star race. That got me to thinking how I’ve always been fairly lucky with the weather at the race track. Truthfully, I have enjoyed far more sunny and warm days than nasty ones. Yet the nasty weather experiences are the ones that seem to stick with you, and out of those, I’ve had some real doozies.
I live in Pennsylvania, and even NASCAR won’t come to visit there any earlier than May. Everyone here knows you don’t schedule a race in Pennsylvania in April. Everyone, that is, except the now defunct CART series. One year, they had their Nazareth race scheduled for the first weekend of April. On Saturday, it was sunny with a temperature somewhere in the 70s. By Sunday morning, we had three inches of snow on the ground. The media got a kick out of filming the drivers having snowball fights for the news. Now, I wouldn’t have actually gone to the track, but I had to pick up my tickets, so I ended up slogging around Nazareth in my snow boots.
Fast forward a year or two to the same track. Now the event belongs to the IRL and, learning nothing from the errors of their competitors, they have scheduled the race for April once again. At least it was the end of the month; I’ll give them credit for that. Still, it didn’t make any difference. We all went in our winter coats, and ended up sitting under the blanket we’d brought to sit on. I had to leave my scanner headset on all day just to keep my ears warm. Oh, and then there was the sleet. Yes, sleet. Nothing like freezing to the metal grandstand while being pelted by balls of ice. The media got a real kick out of that, too.
Pocono avoids most of those problems by scheduling races in June and July…you’re more likely to roast to death than freeze. That doesn’t mean a weather issue still doesn’t pop up from time to time, though. Somehow, I have generally managed to avoid rain there. Only one time, in the early ‘90s, do I recall huddling under the grandstand to keep dry. They’ve had rain since then, but I haven’t been there to enjoy it. What I HAVE enjoyed a time or two is fog. Being on top of a mountain raises issues with cloud ceilings, so Pocono is often fogged in for at least part of a day. The last two times I showed up in the fog, it burned off by lunchtime and track activity could begin. However, there was one stubborn fog maybe 15 years ago on qualifying day that refused to cooperate. Guess what? Darrell Waltrip apparently isn’t the only proponent of the vortex theory. NASCAR actually sent some cars out that year to run under caution with the idea that they could actually generate enough heat and air current to help burn off the fog. It didn’t work, and they ended up being the only racecars we saw all day. I mean really the only racecars. The fog was so thick we couldn’t see the infield from the grandstand.
I actually seem to have better weather luck when I travel. I’ve managed to get to New Hampshire, Dover, Richmond (twice), Atlanta, Indy, IRP, and Gateway without ever having any bad weather. I’m one for two at Lowe’s, thanks to my recent All-Star visit. I would like to add, however, that it was sunny and hot all day prior to the race. The first raindrop didn’t fall until they started introductions for the Open just in case you were wondering.
Phoenix and Las Vegas are the two exceptions to my beautiful travel weather theory. You’ll notice that these are both desert locations. Isn’t that really interesting? It leads me to the only possible conclusion that either I or one of the others in my travel group has the ability to cause rain in the desert. It was the same foursome on both trips, and I’m thinking we need to find out which one of us has been cursed with this ability. We did have beautiful weather in Phoenix right up until Saturday night, and then the rains came…boy did they come. Not only did it rain all through the night, but it barely stopped in time to dry the place up for the Cup race on Sunday. Let me tell you, rain on the roof of the motorhome when you are sleeping in the upper bunk does not make for a good night’s sleep. There were some short sprinkles during the race itself, too, and the rains returned just as soon as the checkered flag fell. The next morning, we caught a local news broadcast that featured some amazed hosts who couldn’t stop talking about the extremely rare overnight steady rain the area had just experienced.
As bad as Phoenix was, Las Vegas was worse. I watched those poor folks almost freezing to death in the Nevada desert this year and I felt their pain. When we arrived on a Thursday the year we went, it was cool but still sunny. By Friday morning, though, we almost needed a boat to get to the track. The bus from the hotel actually waited to leave because we had to drive through some flooded roads to get there. Once we did, we spent much of the day huddled under the grandstand or getting wet and cold. I need to explain that 50 degrees in the desert feels a whole lot colder than 50 degrees anywhere else I have ever been. It felt more like the low 30s to me.
This year at Vegas, it was even colder and it makes me shiver just thinking about it. Let it be noted that I had brought my big, warm, down-filled football coat along because I was wearing it to combat the sub-zero temperatures at home. I was refusing to wear it in Vegas, though, because I’d been stuck in it for months back in Pennsylvania. I got through day one without too much discomfort, but when we were faced with more of the same on Saturday, I hit my limit. After being cold, wet, and miserable for two days, I said to my race buddies for about the 80th time, “Have I mentioned yet that I hate the weather here?” All part of a Day in the Life at the Track.
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