One of the fondest memories any race fan has is that of attending races in person, especially when these races are with family or friends. Since my hometown is situated roughly halfway between Atlanta Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway, I was fortunate enough to attend several races at both tracks growing up. Now sit back while I share some stories of a few of my favorite memories of races I attended.
1. 1992 Hooters 500 - Atlanta Motor Speedway: Nothing stands out quite like the the first race, and my first race was one for the ages. It was Richard Petty’s last race, Jeff Gordon’s first, and it featured an epic championship battle. The one thing I remember was the fact that we were woefully unprepared for just how loud the cars were. Also, I remember Richard Petty’s car catching on fire right in front of my seats and him returning for his final victory lap.
2. 1995 Daytona 500 - Daytona International Speedway: My first trip to The Great American Race stands out for one reason: we had quite possibly the worst seats in the whole place. We sat all the way down in row FOUR near turn one. To this day, we still give my mom grief for getting these seats, and to this day she swears they were the only seats she could get. We also believe this was why she chose not to go at the last minute, but I digress.
3. 1995 Pepsi 400 - Daytona International Speedway: This one stands out to me because during this race weekend, I got to meet not just one, but two Cup drivers. The day before the race, we were eating lunch at the Hooters across from the track when Greg Sacks sat down at the table in front of us. He graciously signed autographs not just for me, but for what seemed like the whole place as well. The next night after the race, I spotted Derrick Cope at an open-air bar on the beach, and he graciously signed an autograph for me as well.
4. 1997 Napa 500 - Atlanta Motor Speedway: This year was the start of a family tradition that lasted until 2002. Every year, my family and I would gather for the race, and every year it was either bitterly cold, raining, or when Mother Nature felt like being especially cruel, it was both. We would don every layer of clothing imaginable (I would get an extra-large Bobby Hamilton shirt to wear outside my layers) and then trudge up to our seats for the race.
5. 2003 The Winston - Charlotte Motor Speedway: This was the second race I attended at a track other than Atlanta or Daytona. My aunt and I drove up to this race, but along the way we decided to take a “shortcut” upon the advice of a family member who shall remain nameless. This “shortcut” ended up taking twice as long and took us through what seemed like every back road in North Carolina before we finally arrived at a flea bag Days Inn in Charlotte around 3:00 AM. The race also stood out not only for its action, but the fact that the fans in the seats next to us provide some entertainment. We were seated in row sixty-four, and apparently the people next to us didn’t realize that would be up high. The woman was scared of heights, and it was pretty entertaining watching her climb down from the seats with a death grip on both the railing and her husband.
If you’ll notice from these memories, I make little mention of the racing we saw. In a couple of them, I can’t even recall who won without looking it up. When we attend races with family and friends, these are the memories that truly stand out to us. Even though the racing is often stellar, it takes a backseat to the memories made with loved ones.
Now, in the comments section, I would like to ask that you share with me your favorite memory of attending a race with family. It doesn’t matter what series, but I do ask that the memory be of one with family. If it comes with a funny story, that’s even better. For the second week in a row, I’m going to give you a musical closeout. This is one called Me and Dad by Keith Bryant. Enjoy...