I consider a trip to a NASCAR race a quasi-religious pilgrimage that replaces communion wine with beer in a can, bread with greasy concession food, and the good book with a publication of scanner frequencies.
I've been to Talladega (Cup in 2005), Darlington (Cup in 2006), Charlotte (Cup in 2008 & 2009), Daytona (Nationwide in twice in 2009), Atlanta (Cup in 2009), and now I've added Martinsville as of Sunday... sort of.
FRIDAY MARCH 26TH
5:30PM - I've been working for entirely too long, but at long last it's time to head to the house and to load up the truck for my ride.
6:10PM - I left the house at last after getting packed.
6:12PM - I left the house for real this time after going back for my Carolina UA jacket which I thought I wouldn't need. *foreshadowing*
7:05PM - I tuned in to the Twins-Orioles game on the radio. Need to find out if Brian Roberts is gonna be healthy. I took him in the fourth round of my fantasy league. I did this for a number of reasons, none of them smart. I didn't know he was banged up, didn't realize his steals were falling off already, and was ultimately driven by the auto-draft order into thinking it was a smart call. B-Rob has done some nice things for me in recent years, so I honestly know it's possible he will exceed expectations.
7:13PM - I changed the channel once I realized that listening to spring training on the radio is simply something I can't do. It became clear to me that this wasn't going to last when I couldn't remember if Roberts batted in the first inning or not, despite that being the only reason I was tuning in. I love baseball on the radio, but spring training on the radio is just intolerable. Not sure how to describe this, but I simply cannot do it.
9:25PM - Met up with my friend Kenneth for dinner in Jacksonville. We ate while watching the beginning of Michigan St vs Northern Iowa, which sadly did not end with a UNI win. We enjoyed Tennessee having just moments earlier put the second SEC team in the Sweet 16 while the Big East had less to show for their vaunted conference. You can always have a good talk with Kenneth because he will say just about anything, including many things that would offend far too many people if I actually wrote about it. *I understand no one will actually read this, but I would like to leave that last sentence where it is.
10:45PM - Finally getting going again on my trip. I now know it will be a late night.
12:15AM - There's a stretch of I-95 in Georgia that has been under construction for as long as I've made this trip, going back to my first trip to Carolina as a freshman in the Fall of 2003. So in other words I got a BA in 3 years, but in 7 years the road is still under construction. What's even more dumbfounding is that I've never seen anyone working on this stretch and I've never even noticed any progress on my many trips (I've made over 40 trips along this stretch of road in the past 7 years).
SATURDAY MARCH 27TH
1:30AM - I finally made it to South Carolina, and stopped at the Welcome Center. I stopped there because I always do, and bad things happen when you don't stop at the Welcome Center. It's cold, something tells me this trip is gonna have bad weather. *foreshadowing*
3:30AM - Pulled into parking lot at my friend Christian's apartment. Had to wake him up with a phone call, but got in and was asleep within an hour.
9:30AM - Christian wakes me up as he is rustling around, which makes sense for him since he was a sleep before I even got there, but for me it's just terrible.
12:30PM - Met up with my friend Nick for lunch at Pawley's Front Porch in Five Points. I ordered The Beaufort. Really how can I turn down a burger with a fried egg, ham, cheese, onion ring, and hot sauce? Top it off with some sweet potato fries and a couple bottles of Coors Light for a great lunch. Nick is engaged and has a wedding in May. Really, my fraternal little brother is getting married in less than two months and I couldn't be happier for him.
2:30PM - After getting back to Christian's apartment we are now packed. The third member of our group, Bobby, has arrived and has his stuff packed as well. We are ready to roll.
4:30PM - We're on the road, I know that K-State vs Butler is starting, and I'm wondering how much of the wondrous Gus Johnson I will get to see today. That's about all there is to think about because other than Charlotte there's nothing on this route.
5:25PM - We stop at some Shell station on I-40 in North Carolina, I have no idea where this is or if I will ever find this place again, but it holds a great national treasure. It was here that I found NEHI, and of course I had to buy some. I bought an Orange Nehi, a Peach Nehi, and a Grape Nehi. For all I knew Nehi was discontinued during the Korean War after Radar left the Korean Peninsula. Souvenir #1 on my trip: Empty Grape Nehi bottle, because I had to drink it.
6:00PM - We arrived at our hotel in Winston-Salem with enough time to watch the final 8 minutes or so of Butler's victory over Kansas State. I was somehow alive in some weird pick 'em and needed K-State to win, but really didn't care. It was just too special for this victory. I can't help thinking of this team as the team from Hoosiers, even though I know they are good and not some small town miracle.
7:00PM - We head out for dinner with the idea of watching the late Elite Eight game.
7:15PM - We finally manage to get to Texas Roadhouse, but the line out the door is a turn-off.
7:20PM - O'Charley's looks promising, but there appear to be no TV's, so we're off to keeping looking.
7:25PM - TGI Friday's is our eventual landing spot. We get to our seats, which have no view of the TV's. So we spend the meal observing people and trying to figure out just how freaky our waitress probably is with her men. Really, she appears to be the absolute definition of a closet freak, with the doors wide open.
Rest of evening not very interesting, but we did load up the hotel fridge...
SUNDAY MARCH 28TH
5:29AM - I'm up, and it's way too damn early.
6:00AM - We're the first ones in line for the complimentary hotel breakfast. There were others up early, and all clearly had their respective NASCAR apparel on as well. There's nothing more unappealing than the options at a hotel breakfast, but that's because I never can talk myself into waiting and working to make a waffle.
7:30AM - After searching for a while for a Sunoco (I have a card where I had budgeted for this trip) we settle on going to a Sheetz. I have no idea what that chain is, but it had to be visited. As we turn I declared there would be a Sunoco "on the other side of that hill" because that happens to be my luck most of the time.
7:35AM - There was a Sunoco on the other side of that hill. Not kidding.
8:00AM - We pulled into our parking spot with five hours left until the scheduled green flag.
8:20AM - We visit the merchandise haulers. I got a sweater which I need because it's really cold. I also got a new BB&T hat, which is Clint Bowyer's alternate sponsor and primary sponsor for this race. The track looks awesome from here.
8:35AM - We met our friend Robbie outside the track. Robbie works on the company that broadcasts the SprintVision stuff at NASCAR races. I've always laughed at how corny much of it is, but I know it is good stuff.
9:00AM - It is cold and overcast, I start getting a really bad feeling this race won't get in. Robbie told us we need to get to 251 laps for it to be official, but first we'd need to get to 1 lap.
9:20AM - We get in line at the only port-a-johns we can find, which are in the official merchandise hauler area. Long lines already.
9:40AM - First beer opened, drinking ensues.
10:00AM - Bobby goes to the port-a-johns, but Christian and I know it's not worth it and we just use the car doors to provide cover.
11:30AM - Bobby has long since given in.
11:45AM - We're heading to the track, weather still has not improved.
12:25PM - In line for the hotdogs, the "World Famous Martinsville Hotdogs"
12:55PM - So good. Hot dog, chili, slaw, and mustard for just $2. I had three.
2:30PM - Sure enough the race is postponed until Monday at noon, without a green flag lap. This was as close as we could get to seeing car on the track...
4:51PM - We leave the track, knowing that coming back tomorrow is not going to happen.
The rest of the story...
We watched the last Elite Eight game in the small window of the TV not dedicated to storm coverage. Tornadoes hit the area where we were, but not really all that close to where we actually were.
We watched the race at Christian's apartment. Sure enough, Denny Hamlin won, who is Bobby's favorite driver.
So many dollars later I still haven't seen a race at Martinsville, but we'll be back next year. Maybe we'll actually see a green flag lap next time.