Out in the middle of nowhere in the Irish Hills of southern Michigan we found a parking space about a mile from the main gate (and that was in the parking lot) and started walking. We had about an hour to walk around through the merchandise haulers (that's NASCAR talk for semi trailers full of t-shirts and hats) and see the sights.
Here is a pic of me hanging out with Carl Edwards before the race.
Then we made the climb to our seats and settled in for the race. The pre-race parade of drivers was the closest I got to the living breathing Carl Edwards. But he waved right at me. See?
NASCAR is different than any other sporting event (well, that kinda goes without saying) in the fact that the higher your seat is the more expensive it is. Those Row 1 seats are the cheapest in the place, because you can't see much except for what is right in front of you....which is basically a blur of color as the cars fly by for a few seconds.
Our seats were perfectly situated right at the entrance to pit road and high enough so that we could see all the way around the 2 mile track. I could use my binoculars and see Chandie Johnson sitting on the pit box watching the race.
The other big difference in the seating is that there are no stadium seats. No backs. No arms. No cupholders. Just hundreds of bleachers with little numbers painted on them to show you where to sit. We were packed in there like sardines. And can I just say for the record that I'm sure in the middle combat as the enemy is advancing on your position the sound of four American F-15s flying a few hundred feet overhead is very reassuring and comforting. But when sitting on a thin strip of aluminum 3 stories in the air surrounded by thousands of screaming fans it is terrifying!!
This is more my speed. Slow and silent.
This was our view of the action from our spot in Turn Four, 26 rows up. (Sorry the pic is of Michael Waltrip's car. It's really hard to time it where you can get a picture of the car you want when they are going 196 miles an hour.)
Anyway....the race was very quick (3 hours) with only 3 cautions, two for debris (boring) and one for David Reutimann's crash into the water barrels right in front of us (thrilling). If you weren't glued to the TV watching it, here is what happened.
Jimmy Johnson led almost the entire race (like 186 of 200 laps). Greg Biffle had a short stint at the lead but spent most of the rest of the day eating Johnson's dust in 2nd place. Then on lap 199 Johnson ran out of gas and Biffle took the lead......until he ran out of gas.....at which point Mark Martin (one of our favorites) won the race after leading 1/4 of a lap the entire day. Very exciting!
Here is poor Greg Biffle getting a push to the pits after the race.
This is a picture of the JumboTron where they were showing Mark Martin's celebration and post race interview from Victory Lane. Unfortunately his car ran out of gas just after he crossed the finish line so he wasn't able to do a victory lap or anything. So the only shot of him I have all day is this one. :(We left happy and tan, but not burnt...unlike the majority of other race goers. Not sure if those NASCAR types believe in sunscreen. Wow. It was bad. I did learn a new vocabulary word though. If you get a sunburn while wearing a "wife beater" t-shirt and then decide to walk around with no shirt on at all (which seems to be popular) you then have a "skin beater" for all the world to see.
Overall a great day and a great weekend. Now I'm worried about how I'll surpass this birthday gift next year. 300+ days to plan I guess.