2006 Texas 500
Just a quickie note before I hit the shower and the sack....
Here's a link to the photo galleries I put on my server. Two sets because they came off two different memory cards and the software builds the gallery as you download.... Sorry for the inclusion of all the crap pix I would normally delete; no time for that today.
We got to the track around 4:30 am. Watched the trailers go in. Nothing new, but we did decide to go into the infield to get pix for the fall race. I think I have enough from outside (LOL).
We hung around the garage until the crews entered. We got "Bootie" Barker's autograph. Then we got Biffle and Kvapil in the cafe. Yes, that's me with Kvapil -- no comments, please, about the lack of make-up or the really tired look on my face as I had only 4 hours of sleep last night....
Stayed in the infield through practice. Caught a few drivers at press conferences. See it here first: pix of the Dale Jarrett/Toys for Tots "Design Dale's Ride" car.... It was unveiled before our eyes.
We didn't find much good food to eat on the midway. Did some shopping. Went back to the infield for qualifying. Lots of cheers for Dale Jr., Truex Jr., both Labontes, Mark Martin, and Kasey Kahne (when he took the pole). Not much for anyone else (or at least not like that).
That's all for now. I'm sunburned (used sunscreen), my feet hurt (wore my most comfy sneakers), and I feel really gritty (lots of bad wind and sand all the way from West Texas blew in right before we left).
Today's update. Not much there. We were going to catch cup practice, but got a late start and missed it. There was almost zero traffic on the way there. We could hear the cup cars running while we did some shopping at the mini midway across the highway. There seemed to be more tents, but they don't have the super cheap prices they used to. Seems most everything is close to the same price as the vendors at the track, and some of their merchandise is YEARS old.
The main purpose of our trip out today was to be in the parking lot for the military fly-over. We happened to be outside the track for it during a Busch race one year, and it looked really cool. So we decided we wanted to catch a picture of it. Unfortunately, we can't ever quite manage it...
So we got onto the track property with time to spare, and found a good spot where we could see the whole track. We did catch photos of the flyover (the last 2 in the gallery), but it wasn't as cool as we had imagined (we were a LOT closer when we saw it a few years back). At this distance, you're just too far away to really see the planes well. We decided to be about 1/2 deep in the parking lot to catch it at the fall race. That's our new mission....
After a 45 minute drive home, we're enjoying the air conditioning (no wind!) and watching the Busch race. We'll hit the sack early and leave for the track around 4:00 am tomorrow. I probably won't get my Sunday UCAP done until Monday....
We left home at 5:00 am and got to the track without much hassle. There were
more cars in the parking lot this year. We tried to sleep for a while, but our
section of the parking lot had these big halogen lights in it, and they were
shining right in the car. Plus, there was so much traffic coming in that we were
afraid there wouldn't be room for our awning if we didn't set it up soon.
Right after we got out of the car, we spotted Todd and Stephanie, so they parked beside us. Stephanie is my best friend, and her husband, Todd works for Lennox -- he's the one who gets us grandstand seats every year at a discounted price.
After we set up our awning, Mom, Stephanie, and I went to the infield. We looked around for one of the Nationwide golf carts, but a track worker told us they don't start running until 9:00. We did find the shuttle though, so we asked the driver if she went to the infield. She was very confused or very confusing, we couldn't decide which. But we did find out she made a stop at the hill above the infield gate, so we told her we'd ride. We started heading for the side of the shuttle to get on, and she started driving off! We had to hustle to find a spot to hop on while it was in motion.
We had a spot of breakfast in the infield cafe. They had chorrizo and eggs and some great cinnamon rolls this year. The coffee was really good, too, which was a big surprise from years past. I always cringe at the prices, though.
After breakfast, we strolled down to the driver's campgrounds to see who we could spot. We got a lot of pictures, but I was using the 35mm for the most part. I've found that the digital goes into sleep mode too quickly and doesn't respond fast enough to get really good pictures. I'll get the film developed tomorrow, so if there's anything good, I'll post it.
One thing that was kind of neat about driver watching was cheering on a thirteen-year-old who chased after every driver that came out of the gate. He was fast, too, and he ran along side every golf cart until they either stopped to sign their autograph (most of them) or got away from him (very few). The whole crowd was cheering him on, and anyone who couldn't see if he got the autograph would ask, "Did he get it?" and then "Yeah!" if he did. It was really cool.
Stephanie and I stopped to watch the few final cars go through inspection on our way to the grandstand tunnel. Stephanie had never been through it before, and after we'd gone through it and up the long flights of stairs, she agreed it was neat to experience once, but a bigger pain than it's worth. We were lucky enough to be allowed to walk along the fence for a short way, though, before the fence workers made us go up in the grandstands. So I did get a few pictures of the cars on pit road. I'm still not sure why the Texas track doesn't let you walk along the fence. It seems to me that on TV, all the other tracks have people up by the fence even during the race. So it makes no sense to me why they won't let you up by the fence BEFORE the race starts. I mean, what harm can it do to allow you to stand there and take a few pictures?
Anyway, Stephanie and I found our seats after finding some Nachos Grande, which weren't all that grande this year. I also made a pit stop at one of the jewelry vendors to get a Texas racing charm for my necklace.
The pre-race show was ho-hum. I really thought they'd make a big deal out of it with it being the 10th anniversary and all. It didn't seem like they did all that much compared to other years. The band "Little Big Town" performed. They were good, but they were WAY too loud, louder than Randy Travis, and way louder than the track announcers, which you can barely hear anyway. The sky-divers landed on the back stretch this year, which we surmised was due to that new-fangled camera contraption that zips up and down the front stretch on cables (anyone know what they call it? I haven't paid attention).
As for the race, I thought it was pretty exciting. Stephanie and I listened to Dale Jr. on the scanner, and Mom listened to Kurt Busch (she still hasn't decided who to root for this year now that Rusty's gone, and she can't wait until Steve Wallace starts racing Cup). Mark wasn't as impressed. He said it was hard to get into it without Rusty. He tried rooting for Mark Martin (who we still want to win a championship), but he said it just didn't feel the same. I can kind of relate. It's the way I felt after Dale Sr. died. It took me a long time to REALLY get behind Dale Jr., and I'm still not as big a fan of him as I was of his dad.
Mark and Todd had seats a few sections over from us. They rented one of those Nextel video scanners for (I think he said) $50. Mark had a splitter, so they set it up to listen to Mark Martin and Dale Jr. I'm really jealous, because from what they tell me, it was WELL worth the rental fee. You set it up to monitor your favorite drivers, but you listen to the track feed and it interrupts whenever one of the designated channels is active. So basically, you always know what's going on AND you get to hear the scanner chatter. It also lets you replay video of all the wrecks and stuff, and even fluff stuff like the confrontation between Biffle's gal pal and Busch's. I guess I have to try one out at the fall race. Mark and Todd were really impressed.
I think this was the first race in a long time that wasn't so boring I started to fall asleep. Junior struggled with his car all day. At one point, he seemed to have a pretty good car, but then the caution came out. That's the way it was all day. He'd pit, the car would be worse than before. The car would start getting better the longer he was out, but just about the time he would get close to breaking into the top 10, a caution would come out. It was frustrating for everyone, but it made for some good scanner conversations:
Early pit stop:
Dale Jr: Tell [f-bomb] Wimmer to learn how to get in his pit box, will ya? (the #4 car had blocked Jr in)
Also, on one of the early pit stops, the jack man grabbed the rear tire as it came off and rolled it toward the wall, but it hit the gas man in the leg and he dropped the catch can. They were all scrambling to pick it back up and it was very chaotic. I'm still not sure why it was the jack man who grabbed that tire and rolled it, but unless my eyes are deceiving me, it WAS the jack man, and he just kind of slung it toward the wall before running back to drop the jack and go to the other side.
Dale Jr: (coming into pits after moving up to 11th or so) Just give me a good stop, guys, so I don't have to pass 'em again.
Dale Jr: (after the pit stop) Good job guys. Thanks.
Dale Jr: Tell the 66 he [f-bomb] run in the back of me and he knows it.
Tony Jr: Yeah, we're talking to his spotter now
Dale Jr: We'd be a rocket if you could get this [f-bomb] to turn a little bit.
Dale Jr: Sometimes you call [times] and sometimes you don't. Do you know how annoying that is, Junior? (after which, Tony Jr. started calling times more often)
Post race cool down lap:
Dale Jr: I don't want another car like that one
Tony Jr: Yeah, that was pretty pitiful on the set-up
Dale Jr: But 13th is pretty good for pitiful. That'll get us into the top 10 at the end.
Near the end, I must say I was rooting for Tony to win, rather than Kahne. I'm not a huge fan of KK, and a win by Tony would give me the opportunity to gloat over one of my friends (a TS fan) who chose to go to Detroit to see a girl instead of coming to the race with us. I guess Tony just used up all his stuff trying to fend KK off for so long. I haven't had a chance to watch the tape yet, so I'm not sure if I missed anything important. Of course, none of the wrecks or anything happened on the front stretch, so I don't have anything to comment on there. I tried to get some pix of the damage to Gordon's car after Edwards (?) spin on the back stretch, but it just doesn't show up in the photos.
After the race, we all headed back to our parking spot for some burgers. Mark makes some of the best burgers around. We saw a lot of the usual drunken rowdiness in the parking lot. Then we packed up and went home. I swear, it makes all the difference in the world to park off Petty Place as opposed to Wallace Lane. We were out of the track in minutes, and home in less than an hour, including a stop at Taco Bueno for the teenager at home.