The Texas Two-Step

Yep, I've been working double time to bring you a UCAP of the second NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Texas this year, and I am feeling the pain. I often wonder if everyone feels as beat to death after a race as I do. I wanted to write something really clever that alluded to the fact that this was that long sought after 2nd date that Bruton Smith had been working (suing) so hard to get, but I'm just too tired to be clever. And if I wait until I'm all rested up again to work on this, it will wind up like the 2004 UCAP that I never finished (Don't believe me? Just check out the archives). I think I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night from Wednesday thru Monday, and between that and all the walking (more on that later), I've decided that I must really love NASCAR to put myself through this year after year (and now twice a year). At any rate, and without further adieu, here's a thorough UCAP with lots of pictures. Enjoy!

Friday, November 4

I was totally unprepared for the inaugural November race at Texas. I guess with the rush of school activities, football, and the like, fall just sort of snuck up on me. Lennox waited until a mere three weeks before the race to notify employees that they would not be purchasing blocks of tickets, and we suddenly realized we'd better get on the stick if we were going to get any for ourselves. Mark got a pair of tickets free from someone at work, and Todd was offered a ticket from a friend who works for Schwann's. Mom, Stephanie, and I wound up buying tickets off the internet, and I think we got the best seats of the group.

We didn't even head out to the track until Thursday afternoon, and even then we just went to the office to pick up our infield passes. Usually we do some shopping on Thursday, but we had to get back home. My usual race week routine was just not happening. I was so out of sorts, I didn't even think to bring my camera out to the track with us Thursday, and it's usually with me 24/7 during race week.

We got up at 3:00 a.m. Friday to get to the track in time to see the haulers go in. I'm starting to think I'm just cursed. We had to park at the Speedway Office because most of the parking lots are locked at this hour of the morning. Then we had to assemble Mom's scooter, she can't walk the track with her bad knee. The schedule said the haulers would go in at 5:15, and we arrived at the track at 4:45 only to find that most of them had already gone in. We took a few pictures of the ones still waiting in line, then we went down to the garages to take some pictures there. When it started getting light, we decided to move the car to the main parking lot. It was chilly and very windy. I was glad I brought my sweatshirt and my jacket.

Early Morning Photo Op

Mom wanted some breakfast, and nothing was open yet, so we drove across the highway to the gas station there. Lots of independent vendors set up there to hawk their NASCAR merchandise. Last spring, one of them had a bunch of those Italian Zopinni charms that everyone is so nuts about. Mom was hoping he'd be there again, but he wasn't. She wound up buying a Rusty Wallace whirly-gig for her yard, a Rusty Wallace tote bag, and a Rusty Wallace rubber bracelet. I didn't find anything I really wanted. On our way back to the infield, we decided to do a little shopping on the midway. We walked almost the entire length down both rows (or rather I did, Mom rode), and I didn't find a darned thing to buy.

We watched most of Busch practice. We found a decent place where I could sit on a curb. I wore my good sneakers to the track, but all the standing around was killing my feet. Mom was all excited because she thought Stephen Wallace was going to run the Busch race at Texas. All through practice, she watched the 64 car and wondered why Stephen never said anything about how the car was handling, but Rusty kept telling the crew what to do. It wasn't until later that night we figured out it was Rusty in the car, not Stephen.

Busch Practice

We grabbed a bit of lunch on the midway. Earlier that morning, I'd spotted a booth serving teriyaki. Big mistake. The meat was great, but the plate cost $9 and the rest of it was just plain gross. Mom had a BBQ sandwich that didn't look much better. I think from now on I'm sticking with standard carnival food: burgers, nachos, and corn dogs. I did find one cool thing, though. MBNA was handing out free camp stools to anyone who filled out an application for their card. I don't really need another credit card, but my feet were killing me. It's a handy little thing; much lighter than my other folding chairs, and it slung quite easily across the back of Mom's scooter, so I didn't have to carry it.

Cup practice started before we got back to the infield after lunch. We found a good spot for photos and I got quite a few nice ones. I'm very disappointed I didn't get a better one of the 88 car, though, as it was such a curious paint scheme.

Cup Practice

After practice ended, I wandered over to the NCTS “garage”, which was actually just a fenced off area of the paddock. I thought it kind of curious that very few people where hanging around looking inside. I thought it was interesting, even though there wasn't much going on. Since it was an impound weekend, there were only a few trucks being worked on.

NCTS Garage

I didn't get many pictures of qualifying. My little digital camera just doesn't have a big enough lens to get much of anything. Mom really wasn't interested in staying too long after Rusty's run, and we had just gone outside the gate when Ryan Newman spun. We just went on home, had some dinner at Ms. Mary's (down-home Southern cooking), and went to bed. I was really worn out, and realized why when we started calculating the distance I had walked. We initially thought it was about 7 miles, but later decided it was closer to 9 or 10 as we had misjudged the length of the midway.


Saturday, November 5

We didn't make it out to the track at all on Saturday. It was one crisis after another all day. The diverter on my showerhead broke mid-shampoo, so I had to run down to Home Depot and get the part to fix that. I had a blister on my toe from Friday. The Christmas vacation with Mark's family in Cancun was squashed by the hurricane and we've had a mad dash to get 18 people from all over the country booked somewhere else instead. And Mark and I spent a couple of hours dealing with Cingular over cell phones. On top of that, Mark went for a ride on his mountain bike, and wound up taking a face first tumble over the handle bars. He broke the visor on his helmet, took a scratch to the head, and has little but his wounded pride to show for it.

Click on the photo for a better view

Sunday, November 6

With the race starting later than it does in the spring, we decided to sleep in. Mom and I left the house around 6:30, and traffic was still very light all the way to the track. Mark gave us the VIP parking pass that came with his tickets, so we got a great parking place on the pavement near Petty Place.

In the garage area, we saw Joe Nemechek's mom. She is just too cute in her little military garb. She seems like a really neat lady, too. There was a kid hanging around the fence, and she came out, talked to him, and signed an autograph for him. A little bit later, a woman who was walking with her in the garage brought her out to meet two other little boys. Mrs. Nemechek took the boys into the garage, showed them around the haulers, and helped them collect postcards for all the drivers. I thought that was neat.

When we started noticing drivers in golf carts, we went down to the motor home area. We got quite a few good pictures there. Unfortunately, we spent so much time there, most of the cars had already gone through inspection before we got back to the garage.

Pre-race Photos

We grabbed some food on our way to the grandstands. Mom had pizza, and I went for the Nachos Grande that I remembered from the spring race. I also managed to find a tank top and Mom and we both found some really cute bobble head hat pins for $1 each. I noticed that a lot of the prices were lower than they are at the spring race. I guess that's because there's only two more races left and the vendors need to get rid of everything before the new stuff comes out next year. I also noticed that they were sold out of a lot of stuff or they would only have it in really small or really large sizes.

For the pre-race, we were treated to performances by Jack Ingram and Pat Green, as well as the Texas Christian University marching band. We were somewhat surprised there were no pyrotechnics during the national anthem, and we had started to wonder what happened to the flyby when the Stealth bomber finally appeared (you really CAN NOT hear it coming).

The weather was perfect. It was warm and sunny, and by race time, I was wishing I had worn shorts. Unfortunately, this is Texas, and the weather is very unpredictable. It could very easily have been cold and wet. The one year I did wear shorts, we froze to death, even though it had been in the 90's the day before. I'll probably never wear shorts to a race again!

I must say that seeing Cup cars under the lights was awesome! Photography with my little digital was tricky, and I was constantly having to adjust the settings. We did have great seats, though. We were just high enough to see the whole track without having to climb too many stairs. I only went to the concession stand once during the whole race, and of course, I missed Ryan Newman's spin. I did catch one picture of Greg Biffle going sideways in front of Dale Jr. Junior was worried that he might have tapped Biffle, but his crew had watched the replays and insisted there was no contact. They later confirmed as much with NASCAR.

Race Photos

I don't know how it looked on TV, but from the stands, this wasn't a very exiting race. There just didn't seem to be much passing, and since there were so few cautions all the cars stayed pretty strung out. Around lap 117 or so, Dale Jr. commented on the long green flag stretch:

“Is this f-----g boring or what?”
“Just a lot of riding around.”
“Hell Junior, you could do this. I mean, you could have been a Busch driver at least. This is easy right here.”

The end of the race got a little more interesting. It was great to see Mark Martin take the lead, and I was sure hoping he'd win, but it looked like Carl Edwards had the car to beat. And I must admit it was fun to see him do his little back flip thing. I tried to catch it on camera, but by then it was just too dark to get a decent picture of anything in motion.

Race Photos and Tailgate Party

After the race, we went back out to the parking lot where Mark had set up a place for us to tailgate. About half of our tailgaters didn't show up, so we wound up with way too many burgers. Mark spotted some guys wandering aimlessly (looking for their car), and he offered them burgers just to get rid of them. Mom and I didn't hang around long after we finished eating. The cars on Wallace Lane were creeping along very slowly, but by the time we got back to my car, Petty Place was pretty much clear of traffic.

Driving home was a breeze. At first, I was a little miffed that we got diverted onto FM 407 out of the track. I intended to go down FM 1171 just north of the track, which takes us all the way across the metroplex just north of where I live. I actually live a little over 20 miles due East of the track, but there's a lake barring a more direct route. FM 407 is way North of the track as a windy little 2-lane road. Lots of people have told me it was a good way to go, but I didn't believe them because it takes you so far out of the way. As soon as we left the track property, we were stuck in traffic again, but that cleared up after the first turn and we had a smooth ride all the way home. Mark went out on FM 1171 and wound up in bumper-to-bumper traffic half the way home, so I guess 407 is the better route after all.

So ends my 10th UCAP in nine seasons of racing at Texas Motor Speedway. Check out some of my other UCAPS and photos, and come back in the spring for more of our adventures with NASCAR racing!


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