NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Is it Worth the Price of Admission?

“I wouldn’t pay two cents to watch a NASCAR race!”

I think we’ve all heard something to this effect recently. I know I have. But is it really true? For me, I know it’s not.

During this weekend’s broadcast of the Pepsi 500 at Fontana, I enjoyed a bit of a chitchat with my fellow writers at Frontstretch and a few readers on our Live Blog. While we counted down the laps that Jimmie Johnson was leading, the subject of what is a reasonable ticket price for a race came up. The replies and reasoning for each answer was as unique as the person answering.

My reply? Well, for those following my maunderings over the past few years, it won’t be a surprise.

I’m still a sucker for the track. I am in the fortunate position to be able to afford the things that make me smile, including some rather outlandish extravagances that include trips to NASCAR events. Do I begrudge the money I’m pouring into the pockets of SMI, ISC and NASCAR? Nope. Not one penny.

Oh, the racing isn’t perfect. The CoT doesn’t come close to resembling a “stock” anything. These ain’t the good ol’ days (whatever those really were). But, with the chill in the air and the realization that my annual helpings of watching cars go in circles has come to an end, I fill out the renewal forms for next year’s events and barely even look at that bottom line.

Last month, I joined the official ranks of journalists at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For the first time, I walked into the media center full of video monitors, speakers and Internet connections. I looked at all the hardworking men and women staring at their computers, with earbuds providing the sound for their personal race coverage and then a car sped by the window. I hefted my laptop, considered my pen and paper, stared at the desk provided for me and then watched another car whiz past. I dumped everything on the desk, zipped up my jacket… checked for hat, sunglasses, pad of paper, pen and ran out into the rumble of the race.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing can compare with the sensation of being part of a racing event. It doesn’t matter much to me if we’re talking Friday Night Lights at your local ¼-mile or the Cup Series in Daytona. It’s not just about the smile on Jeff Gordon’s face. It’s the wizened guy hauling gas cans back and forth to the pumps. It’s the team of Goodyear guys mounting a hill of tires in under a day and the small white trailer at the back of the garage area that hauled a start-up team to the support race. It’s the smell of barbecue, a tired wife sleeping in a camp chair while Happy Hour roars around her, and a harried crewman pushing his pit-box down the entire pit road, only to be told he can’t get into his assigned pit, yet.

When we sit down in our living rooms on Sunday, it’s so easy to be lulled into utter boredom with the rainbow of cars parading on the track. We see shots of the crew chief taking notes and muttering into his headset. Unless sheetmetal starts flying, the small picture has a hard time conveying everything that happened over the past two days to get any car into the show. The crews and garages are nothing more than flashes behind the driver’s head in a poorly framed interview shot.

It’s for all of that unseen magic… the energy, the sound, smell, devotion, creativity, inspiration and of course, the cars, that I go to the track.

Would I pay $20? $30? $40? More? For the privilege of being part of this amazing sport in even a very small way?

Yes, I would.

Whether sitting in the stands or prowling the infield, I’ll be seeing you at the track.

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