So What Do We Do Now?
Last weekend, I actually made it to a race, something I think most of us are increasingly going to have a hard time doing. It was a go-kart event, not my normal choice, but this one – King of the Klay – was being held on a temporary track inside a horse arena, and since it was only a bit more than half an hour from my home, the novelty was worth the effort to attend.
Kind of hard to freeze the action with my camera in a low-light arena, but this is what things looked like at King of the Klay.
Kart racing is about the competitors, first and foremost. Spectators are welcomed, but they’re expected to understand that there will be LOTS of practice and LOTS of feature events for flat karts classes that, to the newbie, all look alike. I accept that.
Friday’s racing also ran REALLY long, first due to practice running late, then to lots of spins on the slick, tricky surface, and then to an intermission that didn’t start until after 10 p.m. and still ran nearly 45 minutes. Barely into the feature racing, everything screeched to a halt again because a trailer caught fire in the parking lot,
It was getting close to midnight when kart engines finally cranked up again, and I only watched a couple more races before leaving. I might have been the last spectator not attached to a driver or team.
Friday night at the horse arena won’t bump any of my top ten races of all time out of their spots, but I did get to see a race, and it’s starting to look like we’re going to have to make even more drastic adjustments to feed our need for speed in the coming weeks. Welcome to the new reality.
What are we to do with ourselves these days? A lot of people would point toward iRacing, and last weekend’s event got quite a bit of coverage, thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and several other Cup drivers taking part. Eventually, I’ll have to take a look, but not yet. “Virtual” may be taking over our lives in more ways than this, but I’m still the guy who prefers a real book to a Kindle, and consistent with that, I’m tempted to scour the attic and basement for some of my son’s Matchbox and HotWheels cars and hope it stays warm enough to build my own 1/1,760th of a mile dirt oval track and see kids having their own races in the dirt with those little cars, the kid in me wants to join in.
With a little encouragement and a few old Matchbox/HotWheels cars, I think I could get into this.
The problem with my childhood dream track is that it doesn’t accomplish “social distancing” – keeping us far enough apart that the germs can’t leap between us. That makes television a safe alternative, and with the events available on YouTube, you might be able to hold out for a while. Those great old Southern 500 films alone ought to fire up the NASCAR fan’s heart.
I think I’ll try to do a little historical research, too. If the wonderful librarians at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing keep their space open, I may head up there later this week and spend another day immersed in crumbling, ancient copies of National Speed Sport News, then come home and look at newspapers that are available online. For me, it doesn’t take much of that activity to shift my imagination into high gear and imagine those stockers, modifieds or “big cars” slinging the dirt half a century or more ago.
There’s just something cool about seeing NSSN coverage of the first race you ever attended, more than half a century ago.
None of this means I won’t miss seeing races in person. The go-karts got my blood racing a few times and watching a few videos later last weekend reminded me why this virus-enforced exile from sports is going to hurt. But if I survive the virus, I think I’ll survive the exile, too, and that first race when things return to something approaching normal will be something else.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
Speaking of the racing history research, I want to pass this one along. Below is an ad from National Speed Sport News in 1951. Note the promotion of Bill France (“Under Personal Direction of” and “Famous President of” NASCAR), but also note the promotion: “Have you ever wondered just how fast your own car would really go? Now you can see!”
They don’t advertise ‘em like this, anymore.
That was STOCK car racing. Granted, it was dangerous, but it also won racing hearts that previously had belonged to midgets and “big cars.”
Today you could hardly pitch a Cup race as having anything to do with what you drive, other than sharing a nameplate. You know how I feel about that, so no further comment is needed.
Keep washing your hands and reading the latest. One day – maybe sooner than later – we’ll have racing to attend and watch again.