By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
But that wasn't the problem. It was all passable (unless he was going into the pit area, where pants and real shoes are required.) The problem was with the four-foot boa curled around his neck. He should be able to bring it in, he argued, because it was simply part of his apparel.
I carried a notepad and several NASCAR guides toward the press box. Fourteen different men asked me if I were studying for school, then chuckled, "heeh, heeh."
But once I got inside, close to the racing itself, something remarkable happened. I began to like NASCAR racing. Good lord, the drivers were nice. Quite different from approaching, say, Kevin Brown, on a day when he's surly even before he's pitched poorly.
Dallas superfan Tanya Walker needed local drivers to bring their cars to a party to promote the coming of Hypertrack last week. She gave them three hours notice--and they showed up. "And you never see them not sign autographs," she noted. "You'll see them take kids into the pits and show them how things are done.
"You'd never see a football player doing that."
As for the fans, consider that at my first race, there were 150,000 people and no fights--at least not any that I noticed. No one was passed-out drunk--something you'd see at any given baseball game. (It was either their fascination with the track action or the decibel level.)
I was absolutely taken by this event--though I still won't call it a sport. (Fans argue that drivers are athletes because of what it takes to keep concentrating in those tense situations for so long.)
Of course, the same argument could be made for police officers--and parents.
Leaving the track that day, one of the fans--presumably not a member of the elite racing brigade--decided to join me on my way out. He was wearing only cutoffs; his entire back, from brain stem to tailbone, was covered with a five-color tattoo of Jesus on the cross.
In one hand, he carried a half-open Igloo cooler, presumably not for rushing donated organs to Pittsburgh for transplant.
He reached in and offered me a Miller Genuine Draft, while staring blankly at my rear. Suddenly he noticed my notepad. "Them your school books?" he slurred.
God help us all. They are coming--as sure as there are unskirted double-wides in Arkansas.