I always wondered what the hype was about. A car seemingly going around in circles never appealed to me. I used to briefly watch NASCAR, when I was younger flicking through channels looking for The Simpsons. Yet I never understood why thousands of people would get so enthusiastic, pay big money and attend these events. After I took the opportunity to spend a day at NASCAR it all became clear.
The Michigan 400 is one of the state’s biggest sporting events, drawing thousands of people annually. As we drove down the freeway early morning it was clear to see NASCAR is big business in the mid-west. Pickup trucks with American and Confederate flags flying high, motorhomes and Chevy’s as far as the eye can see.
Arriving to the venue mid-morning with a few hours up our sleeve. The one and only main race didn’t start until 2pm, luckily for us we had a suite and access to pit lane. The suite had an open bar and free food. Naturally we went there first and stocked up on some refreshments before heading out to explore.
Wandering around with a drink in each hand we already felt like seasoned fans. The environment and type of character that NASCAR draws was interesting. One of the main reasons I set out to travel was to experience different cultures, I tend to observe and analyse my surroundings wherever I am.
You have the fathers taking their sons out for the day, or the young teenage males looking to get away from their parents and check out the ladies. But by far, the biggest stereotypical populous is the rednecks. Drunk, loud, and proud.
Walking up and down pit lane getting the chance to witness operations behind the scenes was incredible. We saw all the teams setting up their pit stops and preparing for the race ahead. It seemed like a whole lot of minions wearing different sponsorship merchandise walking around in perfected detailed sequence.
The number of tires they have is incredible, they always have more than they would actually need as each car goes through about 10-12 tires for a race. We saw them get all lined up and the bolts glued on. This makes it quicker to swap out the tires during the race. Every millisecond counts. Test, test test.
Marketing was huge, each car and team was heavily plastered with sponsorship.
The next hour or so was spent checking out the merchandise area. It was massive, so many sponsors bringing their clothing and all the merchandise that comes with it. The whole NASCAR industry is huge, millions and millions of dollars.
After grabbing something to eat we headed up to our seats in the grandstand for the beginning of the race to get a first-hand encounter. Being right on turn 1 we had some of the best seats to witness the entire race. Before the race started there was what we have come to know as the typical American patriotism with the National Anthem, fighter jets that flew over top and rednecks galore in the crowds.
When the race actually started I couldn’t believe how loud and fast the cars were as they boosted past. This was the first time I actually felt a bit of a rush from Motorsport. I knew the cars could go up to 200 miles an hour but I hadn’t quite realised how fast that actually is in person. The noise was so intense, when I got given ear plugs I disregarded them. But I can tell you, you most defiantly need them.
Fortunately for the drivers but, unfortunate for us there were no crashes. The crashes would be incredibly scary to witness I could imagine, due to the fact they go so fast and race within inches of each other. The drivers must need incredible focus.
After the final laps the winner was announced and he did some burn outs on the finish line blowing out all of his tires and almost destroying the car in his celebration! As the grandstand emptied out we headed to the suite and loaded our backpack with free beers before we went on our way.
Check out more about the events here : http://www.nascar.com/en_us