Race day – new experiences

Every year I join one of my sons (in-law) and some of his friends at a NASCAR race.

This year we got invited to experience the race a little bit differently. Including the drive from Advance to Concord, our time at the race and the drive home, it was a far different experience. And it was all good.

We had talked about going to the Coca-Cola 600 which is the race we normally go to; however on Friday, Marc called me saying he had tickets to the Sprint All-Star race, the next day.

This played well for two reasons – 1) I could not go to the Coca-Cola 600, Memorial Day weekend because of prior family commitments, 2) the All-Star race tickets were courtesy of the Hendrick Automotive Group, in their suite. SWEET, we were both IN!

The race is not your typical NASCAR race. It’s a short series of races with the top purse being $1,000,000. This makes for more tense and aggressive racing, which normally makes for lots more track action, i.e., crashes.

Marc and I hopped into my Mini Cooper at 5pm and headed south to Concord. We had recently discovered a new route between Advance & Concord. The drive thru the country was a great ride in my hot rod little go-cart. This made for a fabulous spring drive. (Note – I miss my motorcycle.)

This new route also took us into Concord from a different direction than most of the other race fans take. Smooth sailing to the track – Life is good.

As we drove up to the Race track, which is the biggest sports venue in NC, I pulled the mini into the first VIP parking lot on a whim. I did not have a VIP parking pass, but hoped that I could find a stray spot big enough for my little car and that no one would notice.

As soon as I pulled into the gate a guy waved his hand for me to pull up further and then beckoned for me to wind down my window.

“Are you looking to park here?” he asked.
I wanted to say, No, I’m here looking for a mermaid, but I opted not to be sarcastic.
“Yes sir,” I replied.
“When are you leaving?” he asked.
Again, I thought wiser and did not respond with, “Depends on the doomsday timing.”
“As soon as the race is over” is what my mind let my mouth say out loud.
“Then park right there in front of my car. I wouldn’t let just anyone block me in, but I like you ’cause I got me a Mini too and I love Mini drivers.”
“You’re great dude, thanks a million.” was exactly what my mind and mouth said in unison.

I pulled the mini right off the edge of the road, smack out in front of everyone else. Life is good.

This is prime parking because when the 100,000 fans start leaving, no one moves until the cars up front get moving. That’s us up there in the front row.

Marc and I headed off on foot toward the grand stands. We met our source for tickets at one of the crossing bridges that leads from the parking areas over the highway to the race track. Great timing and now tickets in hand, into the stands we go.

The suites are on the top floor of the grand stands. You need an wrist band to get up there, which upon showing security our tickets, “Hello Mr Burriss, right this way sir.”, with our wrist bands on wrists, elevator opens as if on cue. Life is good.

I was a little taken back that I had to press the buttons myself to get the elevator to go up. But I understand. When the economy get’s better, maybe they’ll hire elevator bellboys again. I can do my part until then.

We got on the second floor and 3 doors down the hallway was suite 110. Marc and I are good at what we do, and when invited to attend the race in the Hendrick Automotive Group suite, what we do is act as if we belong. We walked in scanned the room and headed directly over to the bar.

Appropriate “soda” in hand, we scanned the other side of the room and discovered what was obviously set out for us. Monster sized peeled & devained shrimp. YEAH!

Marc and I are shrimp connoisseurs. In this I mean, we eat shrimp anytime we see it and as long as it’s good shrimp, we’ll keep eating it until it’s gone. We’re not gluttons, we will pace ourselves, but don’t get between us and the shrimp. Life is good.

We headed thru the suite to our seats. Now, these are not the seats the commoners sit on outside. These are plush cloth seats with a table ledge in front of us to sit our “soda” and shrimp down on. On this ledge were also bowls of fresh peanut M&Ms, regular M&Ms, mixed gourmet nuts and spicy snack nuggets. Did I already say, Life is good?

The view from our seats was pretty sweet as well. Full view of the entire 1.5 mile track, complete view of pit road and the start finish line to our right and smack in front of us was the most magnificent thing I have ever seen in my life.

On the far side of the track, right before turn 3 sat the biggest freakin TV in the world. Made of 9,000,000 (yep 9 million) bright LEDs it measures 800 feet wide by 20 feet tall. An unbelievable 16,000 sq ft of HD TV for us to enjoy watching every possible video view of the upcoming race as we watch and listen to the race live.

Comfy chair in an air-conditioned suite, ice cold “soda”, hugh fresh shrimp, live race and gigantic TV to boot. Life is good.

There were a few unpleasant issues during the race. At one point the big screen TV got a small black line thru it. Sort of like the size of a hair, but it was noticeable and it detracted from our happiness for a brief moment. Also at one point during that race our waitress took a few seconds longer clearing out our empty shrimp plates and “soda” cans. To the average person, this may not be a big deal. To “soda drinkers and shrimp lovers, this slowed us down getting yet more. I decided not to make a big deal out of these issues, but I took notice just in case they are not improved upon by next time.

The race was pretty good as well. There were some aggressive drivers who pushed the envelope hard trying to get that $1,000,000 prize. A few spectacular bump & grind cautions and one major T-Bone wreck that as expected was captured on the big screen in slow motion, BANG/BOOM instant replay from all 63 track cameras. Life is good.

We did not realize until the shrimp was nearly gone, (not sorry guys, you dawdle, I win), that it was just an appetizer. At 7:30, for dinner they brought out beef tips, blue cheese mashed potatoes, salad (yeah, no thanks), chicken slices flavored to perfection and more “soda”. Again, note the ever so important quote – Life is good.

We felt obligated to partake of the dinner since somebody obviously worked hard to prepare it. We found some more shrimp to add to our dinner plates as a side dish.

After dinner they served all kinds of cakes, cookies, candies and even more “soda”. See not about quote above.

Well, all good things may come to an end, and the All-Star race was no different.

Yet the good stuff did not end yet.

We thanked our hosts for a great time and walked back down to our car. As we were pondering how to get it turned around and thru a sea of slightly to completely drunk NASCAR fans, the guy in the front of the exit line yelled at Marc. It was a friend of his. With a quick hello he said, “tell your buddy in the mini that he can pull out in front of me as soon as the crowd opens up a little. Which we did. Marc and I both said, “SWEET!”

We had 5 cars between us and the main road. Everyone wanted to turn right which was very slow going. We wanted to turn left, which was going to be nearly impossible. Oh, but Not!

Once I got the nose of the mini into the main road a NC State High Patrol officer came up to my window and said, “When I tell you to go, get behind that cruiser and turn left. He’ll escort you all the way down the wrong side of NC RT 29 to Piney School Rd. Got it?”

Yes sir was my reply, because that is exactly what I wanted to do. Man, Life is good.

On cue, I pulled my car up behind the cruiser and followed him down the wrong way on RT 29, lights flashing and a periodic siren blaring. We were getting a SHP escort out of town, past all of the other suckers sitting in traffic wondering when and how they were going to get out of there. What would normally take hours, we did in 10 minutes with a police escort. Life is good.

Of course, we had to yell at the cars we passed and inform them that we were special and they WEREN’T. Would you expect differently?

The fact that a 100 other cars were on the same journey out of town with us made no difference to Marc and I. We were at the front of the line which meant the escort was all about only us.

We made the left hand turn onto Piney School Rd, the cop turned off his lights and moved out of our way. Marc waived good bye as I pushed the rpms up in the Mini and grabbed more gears.

We soared down the back roads out of town and headed back to Advance. Sunroof open, windows down, high beams on, yep, we owned that road. Life is good.

We pulled into Advance in less than 45 minutes (I will deny that I did not follow speed limits) and as we crossed I-40, there was our next experience. A NC state High Patrol license check.

I wondered if possibly our great evening had come to an end. But, nope, all was good.

I pulled my license out and handed it to yet another NC state Highway Patrol officer.

“Where are you guys coming from?” he asked.

Now I wanted to reply, “From your mothers place, man she is great”, but I have a smart mind.

“From the race in Concord officer.”, I replied.

“Nice, how was it?” he asked.

“Great office, good race.” I politely replied.

“Good for you, have a nice night.” was his final reply as I took back my wallet, jammed the car into gear and drove off.

I learned years ago, stop drinking “soda” early if you are the driver. This rule has never failed me.

I got home at 1AM, safe and sound, smiling after another great Nascar race.

Life is good.