I have never been a NASCAR fan. When people tell me they love to watch racing, I instantly tune out. My brain clicks to its safe word — Liberace. The Charlotte Motor Speedway might as well be the mythical Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz because I have never seen it in person.
But this weekend, I was asked to attend the 32nd Annual History 300 at the Speedway. I learned the number – in this case, 300 – means the amount of laps the cars go around the track. It is also, incidentally, the number of hours I felt like I was watching the race.
Caution flag: This is not some tired post where I bash rednecks for doing a shirtless chicken dance on top of their trailer — I saw that and wanted to join in, except in my Wonder Woman underwear. I’m also not like other non-NASCAR fans who flippantly say, “It’s just drivers making left turns for five hours.” Those drivers die in fiery infernos, you know. They are legitimately risking their lives to ride in that circle. It is staggering to watch these square-jawed men standing with their blonde wives and children during the national anthem. They know they might bite the dust in the next few hours. Death is breathing down so hard on their necks they are getting a hickey.
I will tell you where you could have gone if you had not driven in a circle for 300 miles: ANYWHERE. YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE. I could have gone to Charleston in 209 miles with my pretend husband to stuff my face with pralines and Taco Boy nachos. That would leave me with a surplus of 70.3 miles. I could drive to Beaufort, South Carolina and still have 20.7 miles to, well, tool around? Maybe driving in a circle for hours isn’t so bad after all.
If you want to experience the Speedway for yourself, here are the top six (because five wasn’t enough this week) things you need to know:
1) Make friends with your neighbors on the Terrace level. This is where people park their RVs and tailgate. Sometimes, but not always, they will offer you a slice of homemade key lime cake. They will also have a Basset Hound named Gabby with curly black hair on her back and a mournful expression that says, “I love you but our love is temporary and only at the Speedway.” She will break past the white picket fence that separates you from her human parents, knock you to the ground, and demand to be petted. This will be the highlight of your day.
2) Wear earplugs. This may sound pretty standard, but you would be surprised by the number of people who go without. Earplugs, though, cannot fully protect you from all noises – or smells. A few of us started to eat lunch when the cars began racing in the qualifying round before the 300. There is nothing worse than choking down a bratwurst while your chest is buzzing and fumes pollute your nose. I didn’t have a bratwurst, but this was still true when I ate watermelon.
3) Ask everyone when the race is going to end. You will get varying answers. If you are at the 300 and it started at 2:45 p.m., it will end around 5 or 6 p.m. as long as there are no rain delays. If you are at the Coca Cola 600, you will be there until death takes you.
4) Have a go cart transport you from your car to your race viewing destination. I had to park in section P, as in Please Can I Go Home Now, so you will want to get yourself a designated Jeeves. Mine was Rick. He was delightful and independently decided to call me by the nickname Jo.
5) Ask Papa John how much face work he has had done. My friends met the shiny-faced, lifted-within-an-inch-of-his-eyebrows pizza mogul (real name: John Schnatter) down in the Speedway Pit Suites and didn’t ask him that question. They did find out his wife makes him pizza at home. She is also blonde and “supportive,” whatever that means. Way to not bring your work home with you, Papa John. Blame Obamacare. Oh wait, he might actually do that.
6) Go home and be grateful you survived. Unless Rick or Gabby really want me back, I will return to my life where the only drag race I watch is on Logo and hosted by RuPaul.