The Drifter discovers NASCAR racing

A friend gave me a $50 ticket for a finish line seat at the Nashville SuperSpeedway for the Federated Autoparts 200 NASCAR Truck Race. Basically, its a stock car race with pickup trucks. The ticket said the gate opened at 5PM, so the German in me had me there at 4:45pm milling with the crowd. The Speedway lies about 30 miles east of Nashville in wide open rural country.   Parking is generous and free. The lot was near empty when I arrived which told me that either this would be a poorly attended event or everybody else knew something I didn't know. It turned out to be the latter.

There was a string of tractor trailers set up outside the gate which were opened up to be shops selling all imaginable variety of racing fan paraphernalia, model race cars, jackets, sew on patches, signs, tee-shirts, hats, even jockey shorts. I recognized some of the brand names but most of it was completely foreign to me, not having followed the NASCAR circuit.  There were a few thousand early-bird fans milling about shopping and shuttling in and out of hospitality tents. I tried to sneak into one of the tents and was politely sent packing when they couldn't find my preferred customer wristband. I was beginning to feel even more the outsider. The program for the race seemed to filled with a good number of events starting around 6pm, but the main race was not until 7pm (turned out to be 8pm). I seemed I had some time to kill.

I brought a slim cigar along hoping it would help me fit in. When I pulled it out I quickly removed the wrapper suddenly aware of the cigar's name (Swisher Sweet) and not wanting to send the wrong message in this crowd.  I realized I had no matches, and so I began to look around for someone who might be smoking so I could bum a light. It took me more than an hour to spot someone smoking. I was really surprised about that, even asked one of the security guards if this was a non-smoking facility. He thought that was pretty funny. I did eventually get a light and smoked my manly cigar.

By 6pm I found my way to my seat ready for the big show. What I got was more than two hours of pre-race folderol, all quite new to me but seemed to be familiar fare to the crowd. We had an MC who was a local radio personality who was surrounded by eight buxom blond beauties.  He introduced them all and we heard a little of their life's story. Fascinating except for the MC's constant sexist verbal drooling over the girls.

Next we had a flyover of three WWII vintage military aircraft. Good show. Then we introduced a line of local notables and they each got to say a few words {yawn}. A local high school dance club put on an exhibition {double yawn}. Meanwhile the racing trucks are being pushed into the pit lineup, 36 by actual count, I'd forgotten that I came for race with all the excitement.

Next a local lady singer sang "America The Beautiful" a' cappella, and out of nowhere four sky divers from the ARMY's "Screaming Eagles" fell from the sky with spiraling red, white, and blue flares and as each landed on the designated target, a civil war canon was fired off the the right of the stands. Then we started working our way through the sales force of the Federated Auto Parts Supply Company who had flown in from all over the country to receive special sales awards. I suspect there were about 300 of them, or maybe it just seemed that way {snore}. Then all 300 of them were given the keys to a Ford F150 truck, and the key that started the truck was the prize of the key holder (ok, there were only 12, but this was a little like being an outsider at a Federated Company picnic).

Next we did a thank you and applause for all the little people; flag men, safety crews, firemen, wrecker drivers, paramedics. We did this one at a time, even once for each of the turn monitors. Then a local boy scout troupe led us in the pledge to the flag "under God" followed by terrific fireworks. Then we introduce all 36 race drivers, paying particular homage to local boys, give out a few more awards, and tell a lot of insider stories that only the regulars get.  I think it was at that point that I realized that I could possibly be the only person in the stands (which had by this time swelled to 30,000 fans) who didn't have an oil filter brand prominently displayed on my clothing.

Now a parade of tractor trailers and other large trucks, at least 30, passed in parade before the stands {slooooowly}.  Each truck was readily identified by its advertising art as to the company who had sponsored in some way the activities of the Nashville Speedway. The MC, of course, had commentary on each of the trucks and the "men" who made it possible. It was like watching a half hour info-mercial live.

Saving the best for last, a local brimstone preacher asked us all to stand and remove our hats and bow our heads, while he thanks God for making this gathering possible {???}, and asked Jesus to be the copilot for each and every race car to keep the drivers safe from harm. When he finished with "Amen", the crowd shouted "Amen" in response. Maybe because this is the bible belt, but I'm guessing because it was time for the drivers to "Start your engines". The race was anticlimatic.

Gene Ziegler