Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Watkins Glen Great Racing Now, Great Memories Then

You’ve been to the track, right? Not any one in particular, but you know, “the track.” The traffic, noise, unwashed masses, parking lots from hell, greasy food and the blistering sunshine. Yeah, that track.

So then, why do we go back? It’s something of a stumper, ain’t it? A few weeks ago, as we sat in our unmoving truck trying to leave ORP, the question did come to my mind. Not that our evening had been bad… it wasn’t. O’Reilly Raceway Park put on a great show, even though I spent the evening in my husband’s lap as he teetered on the edge of the bench.

But as I watched, cheered, swallowed and yelped my way through the 10-minute battle between Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose this past Sunday’s Watkins Glen race, it came to me again, that should I be presented the opportunity to return to the Glen, I’d go in a minute.

Why, you ask? Well, happy memories of racing are not entirely born of side-by-side battles through a multitude of turns. It’s rather more complex. As I enjoyed the aerial shots of rolling hills, puffy white clouds, the charming village at the bottom of the hill and violent wrecks of years past, my visit to Watkins Glen in 2003 came to mind, one-of-a-kind memories drew my eye out the back window at the RV and made me yearn for a trip to the track one more time.

Back then, we were veterans of attending races, but we were still pretty new to the whole “park the RV and stay for the week” phenomenon. We learned many things that week, most of which had little to do with the race itself.

No. 1) You really need a generator when dry camping.

No. 2) Always bring a weedwhacker to the track. You never know how deep the grass will be.

No. 3) An awning is a requirement when it rains all week, unless you want the interior of your RV to be covered in mud.

No. 4) We prefer the “family” camping areas. The bus with free showers for willing nubile women and a viewing platform was interesting, but not my cup of tea.

No. 5) It takes a tractor to remove an RV from the mudbog of an infield after enough rain falls for the county to seek Federal Disaster Assistance.

OK, enough with the domestic comments. What about the racing? Why would I ever wish to return to a place that put on a pretty good version of The Great Flood?

Ah, there was all that good stuff. We were camped infield, about 200 feet from the track. When you’re jolted out of bed by the roar of a race engine flying by at the end of the street, life don’t get much better. We got to climb all around the track, study the turns and appreciate the geography of a road course. It was the first time I watched the setup for the weekend behind the scenes with pit passes. We spoke to members of the Grand Am Series who mentioned how they loved the Cup weekends at the Glen, because they suddenly got all this attention from adoring fans.

There was racing all day and into the night, while the Grand Am did their Six Hours at the Glen and the Busch North Series made us think of home. In short, despite the soaking, I was a kid at the candy store where all was bright, shiny and tempting.

It has made me wonder, what would I see now? I’m no longer wowed when passing by Jack Roush in the pits. But I do stop to watch the teams push the cars through tech and pound on the hood when the template just won’t fit by a smidge.

The circus of humanity, machinery and commerce that travels from track to track still boggles my mind. With each visit to whatever venue, I look for the person weaving through the thronging fans with a worried look on their face. What is it they must accomplish to make the Big Show happen come Sunday morning?

And so, I want to return.

Yes, there is always the green flag, the checkers and all the laps in between. But when you’re at the track, it’s a panorama of action set against the backdrop of America. Elaborate, fascinating and rich in its variety.

The RV needs a cleaning and repacking. The generator just got serviced. The end of the racing season is not even in sight yet. All I’m hoping for is I won’t need a paddle the next time we head out to the track.

Author’s Note: Should you want, you can read my original thoughts from my Watkins Glen weekend here.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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