I spent the weekend in Charlotte to watch David Ragan race the UPS/United Way car in the Bank of America 500. And I’m now a NASCAR fan. (That’s saying something coming from a person passionate about Masterpiece Theater, Jane Austen and Starbucks.)
Yes, I’ve heard of Danica Patrick (woman driver!), but I assumed NASCAR was a redneck sport full of chest beating, beer-drinking, testosterone and revving race cars.
Admittedly, there was a bit of that –- RVs as far as the eye could see, tailgate parties, carnival atmosphere, lamb-chop sideburns, cowboy boots and cutoff jeans. And a bunch of guys at the parking entrance with a lengthy jump rope made of bras. (Yes, they were accepting donations.) You jump it, they give you a margarita.
It’s not just 500 miles. It’s a non-stop, action-packed race that rewards strategy, safety and endurance.
Former driver and ESPN Commentator Dale Jarrett said he lost 17 pounds during a race once from sweating in the car; he claimed drivers in peak physical and mental condition perform better. 24-year-old driver David Ragan told us it can be 50 degrees hotter in the car than on the track, and talked about eating right and exercising. We even got a chance to tour Roush Fenway Racing and tour the Charlotte Motor Speedway with its 24-degree-angled banks. (I scraped my car on a concrete column in our parking garage this year and still can’t parallel park –- yet these drivers zoom around at 200 mph on a sharp incline!)
During the race, I listened on a head set and could hear the entire crew talking LIVE with Ragan while he was driving, letting him know when he was clear to pass or yelling “green, green, green!!” when a caution period was over. David qualified #26, and I was on the edge of my seat while he worked up to #16, #14 and eventually, a top 10 finish! WOO HOO! Any other NASCAR fans out there? Let me hear you!
Photos courtesy CIA Stock Photography; view of track from UPS suite photo is mine