NASCAR - Not For The Faint Of Heart
Next Sunday, March 17, The Charlie Daniels Band will be playing a pre-race show at the Food City 500 NASCAR race at the fabled Bristol Motor Speedway and being a devoted fan of the sport this will be a special day for me.
For one thing, since my busiest touring season is at the same time of year as the racing season, I rarely get to attend a race in person, a second being that Bristol is one of the most exciting tracks on the NASCAR circuit and I'll be going there for the first time to watch the guys - and the lady - fly around a half mile oval of asphalt, standing on it and swapping paint, in an all-out, no holds barred effort to take that coveted checkered flag.
I have been doing a series of media interviews publicizing the event and some of the questions the reporters asked caused me to wax a little introspective about the sport and the steel nerved drivers who make it so exciting.
Let me preface this by saying that I once drove in a celebrity race on a flat track where the highest speed I got my car up to was 95 mph and let me tell you folks, coming up on a hard curve at 95 is a terrifying experience for an old musician who usually handles nothing more dangerous than a fiddle bow.
To think about drivers who go into the curves going nearly 100 mph faster was an awakening for me as to just how special these NASCAR drivers are.
There is an art to braking, shifting and accelerating that takes split second timing and a sixth sense of not only knowing where you are, but where the other 40 or so other cars on the track are.
If the ordinary person, like myself, took a car on to a track like Bristol Motor Speedway and simply drove around it with no other cars on the track and tried to run at even 100 miles an hour I think we'd hit the brakes and drive slowly back to pit road after the first hard left turn.
I rode around the Charlotte Motor Speedway with Tim Flock in a regular car one time before a race and when he took the high line, the car just hanging on the elevated part of the track, I could feel some muscles tighten.
It's not for the faint of heart.
NASCAR drivers are artists who have a God-given talent for passing another speeding car, coming within mere inches, knowing that one mistake at the speeds they're turning up, that one slip or mishandling of the wheel can bring on "the big one", with bunches of cars skidding, sliding, tumbling and piling into the wall.
To see some of the wrecks these guys walk away from is a testament to the improvements in safety gear NASCAR has instituted over the years, but an even bigger testament to the raw nerve and precision skill of these special people.
The sport has its heroes, past and present and has come a long way since the days of the Saturday Night dirt track affairs in some Carolina backwater town, when hard working blue collar amateurs spent their whole paycheck on a new kind of carburetor just to stay competitive, pursuing a dream to drive on Sundays in Daytona or Rockingham or North Wilkesboro, a dream that would come true for only a very few.
NASCAR has become a monolithic mega sport, with tracks from coast to coast and television audiences in the millions.
There are no more loyal fans than the NASCAR bunch, and everybody has their favorite tracks and their favorite drivers.
Myself, I've got a bunch of them and I admire them every one and looking forward to watching them work next Sunday.
After all, it's Bristol baby!
What do you think?
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