By the time this is live, I’ll be in the Florida Keys, following a stream of auto journalists and tweeting about the experience for Kia Canada. The trip includes a visit to the Homestead-Miami Speedway, but more about that next week. For now, before I’ve even left, the thought of Florida and this legendary track is taking me back. (Cue the harps.)
Blessed with golden pedigree, I have more than the average number of NASCAR fans in the family. Seeing NASCAR live is akin to attending a Grateful Dead concert, though there’s admittedly far more short hair and body fat at the racetrack. Still, in both cases, you’ll never experience anything else quite the same. For race fans, NASCAR live at the Homestead-Miami Speedway is the de rigueur trip to Mecca. But with alcohol.
Imagine: You’re hot and drinking all afternoon in the baking Suth’n sun, squashed in amidst tens of thousands of others (most of who will gladly die before surrendering their right to bear arms), watching loud machines hurtle you at 200 mph. Again and again and again, for hundreds of miles.
My first experience (with NASCAR racing, not alcohol) (not to mention, sex) was years ago at the Winston Cup in Michigan –– in Cement City, pronounced SEE-mey-unt –– where area highway signs warn of the local federal prison: “Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers.”
That said, Michigan was very civilized compared to paranoid Ontario, where we were allowed, if not urged, to carry a cooler small enough to fit beneath the bleachers — and therefore also large enough to fit 48 tall cans of beer.
My wife and I had bet $5 on Davey Allison, and stood to win $300 if he won the race. After the vicar blessed the track — this is all true: For this story, we are not in Kansas anymore — the drivers started their engines and began their afternoon of continuous tarmac circling.
The asphalt reflected and increased the heat in the air; you could taste that heat. It was like sitting in a poisonous sauna. But fun.
Watching a stock car race up close is a neck-snapping experience. The blur of each speeding vehicle is fueled by the scores of logos crammed into every spare square inch. Remember that scene in Close Encounters when you first see the UFO? Colours, colours, whoosh!
Things got blurrier as the cooler got emptier, and this was a 500-mile race.
At about the 200-mile point, it seemed evident our boy Davey had a shot. Up we got to cheer with beer! By 300mi, he had a commanding lead and we had ripping jag! ‘Think I better dance now.’
Despite the impressive American girth and evident disdain of our neighbours, who preferred to sit and quietly observe, we found boogie-ing room and, for hours, toasted our boy towards victory, spilling beer everywhere, frightening children, and generally comporting ourselves like as-seen-on-TV white trash on a day pass (as in, parole). The raging sun blistered the track and our noses.
And that was when the party really started. We left Michigan the next day by 2 p.m. but took nary a penny of our winnings back across the border, except in gained weight and ibuprofen.
But that was all just preparation for the main event. Sometime soon I’ll tell you about our surreal NASCAR experience in Florida.
Image courtesy of i heart him.