Remember when buying a ticket to the next NASCAR event required extensive advanced planning? If you wanted a seat anywhere in the stands on Sunday, you may have been required to buy the whole weekend, or a standalone ticket for another type of event in order to get on the waiting list for the really good seats overlooking the Start/Finish Line. In other words, we had to work at being the best fan we could buy.
Those times are well past, even if the race promoters have yet to figure this out.
For the second time this year, I walked up to the ticket booth two hours before the green flag dropped and purchased the cheapest seats the computer could spit out. I didn’t look at the seating map. I wasn’t going to sit there anyway. Yep, I became one of those fans. I sat where the whimsy led me and quite frankly, there weren’t any other fans in my way–sad though that may be.
Honestly, moving your position is a great way to renew your interest in race day activities. This time we positioned ourselves opposite the garages with a bird’s eye view of the cars exiting Turn 4. After spending 15 years of sitting farther down the frontstretch where we studied the trajectory of the cars entering Turn 1, this new seat reminded me how hard it is to race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I enjoyed the restarts, 3-wide coming out of the turns, and a closer view of cars sliding up out of their groove.
We also lucked out and sat directly across from Martin Truex Jr.’s and Dale Jr.’s pit boxes. We had a great view of the entrance to pit road and saw exactly how each vehicle made its approach. Behind the tall fences, I enjoyed watching the haulers for the No. 4 and No. 41 back out of their spaces after the lap 150 wreck ended their day. That’s no mean feat and required assistance from teammates on the ground at both ends of the truck.
Besides being able to experience the competition on and off the track differently, there was also a new crop of fans seated nearby with whom we shared the day. Even if Americans are not traveling to the track in the droves anymore, there is still a huge Canadian contingent present in the stands at NHMS. It’s great to know that it wasn’t just our old section that boasted the international flair.
Finally, when all the *cough cough* excitement was over, I laughed as the gaggle of media stalled at the gates to the garage area as somebody bumped into Junior while all the other drivers climbed from their cars and escaped toward the driver’s lot. I’ve seen some comments about how media members lost opportunities to chase down stories after the checkers flew, but honestly, if the herd has chosen not to enter the wide open plains because the most interesting man in NASCAR chose to speak–well, I don’t know that is anybody’s fault.
So, while the corporate moguls continue to take down grandstands to build trackside parking for multi-million dollar RVs, sell parking spots by the main gate for several hundred dollars, and hawk hospitality services that feature cardboard hamburgers served at picnic tables, the rest of NASCAR Nation can take advantage of the downturn in attendance and do some reconnaissance.
The next time you head for the track, I challenge you to throw off the mantle of tradition and find a new seat selected from the thousands of empty ones. You might be surprised at how interesting everything else is when you look at it from a fresh perspective.
While cruising the Fan Zone outside of Turn 1, and outside the gates, I did bump into a fan who was looking for the Fanatics tent. He wanted the kids to pick their T-shirts before heading inside. That may be the only drawback that came with the elimination of the White Elephant. I love asking for that T-shirt sold at my team’s hauler. I like the conversation with the other likeminded fans and the interaction with the salesperson while everybody makes their personal selection. The mob outside of Junior’s hauler was impressive and those that bought their last Dale Jr. diecast will remember the line, the smiles on everyone’s faces, and how it was a beautiful September day. Whatever Fanatics decides to do in the future, they need to keep the personalized shopping experience of the unique driver haulers in place.
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