Last weekend I went to my first NASCAR race. NHIS (New Hampshire International Speedway) hosted the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 Nextel Cup Series race weekend. I wasn’t there for the big event on Sunday, but I spent the day with about 5,000 of my new best buddies (at the 91,000 seat track) on Friday watching the qualifying runs for the big race, practice and the Busch Cup New England 125 race (for those of you who have yet to be initiated into the sport, Busch cup is sorta the minor league for the Nextel Cup). We had a total blast watching the racing and the fans.
Luckily, a friend of my son’s recommended that we bring some sort of hearing protection. Without it, it would have been a painful experience. It’s hard to describe just how loud it is (although it’s nothing compared to indoor monster truck rallies of which I’ve been to a few) or how strong the smell of shredding tires and disintegrating brake pads is. It was a very hot day and you could almost see the tires liquefy as the cars came out of the corners.
As a NASCAR neophyte, I was amazed with the driver loyalty, the number of campers (a sea of campers filled with NASCAR faithful attend each race – for the entire weekend), the relatively diverse cross-section of fans, the Christian convocation prior to the race, and the number of times the fans were thanked for their support.
The track has very slightly banked turns (it’s considered flat) and is about a mile long. The top qualifiers ran at about 130mph during the qualification which ends up being about 30 seconds per lap. With that, you’d expect that a 125 lap race would take a little more than an hour. I guess I should have realized this, but many of the laps are run relatively slowly under the yellow flag. The yellow flag comes out when someone crashes, wipes out or becomes similarly disabled. This happens pretty frequently. I don’t know if I’d be happy watching 300 laps, but 125 turned out to be just right.
In fact, in the Busch Cup race that we saw, the leader for most of the race was passed by two other cars in the last lap. It made it very exciting and I found myself cheering on my adopted favorite team, which ended up losing. If you get a chance to go, I’d highly recommend it. Unless you’re totally committed, go to the qualifying event on the Friday before the race. It seems that fewer people are interested and you get to see a wide-range of NASCAR-type stuff happening.
Here a couple of pictures. You can see more here.