If you’ve never been to a NASCAR race before, it can be hard to know how long it actually is. From the moment the race begins until the instant the checkered flag waves, there seem to be endless amounts of time. But once the race is over, you realize that it was really only a matter of minutes. That’s the strange and wonderful thing about NASCAR races – they seem endless, but in reality, they’re over in a flash.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that not all of the time that passes during a NASCAR race is truly enjoyable. For starters, there’s the time spent waiting for the action to begin. It seems like they’re always running behind, so you have to wait a while for the race to begin. The wait is never more than 10 or 12 minutes, but it still takes a while to get from the gate to the podium. What’s more, the longer the wait, the more restless you’ll become. You may start to fidget, or even find yourself dozing off. It’s also around this time that your hands start to hurt from all the constant hand waving. (And let’s be honest, there’s also the risk of having your fingers curled up due to the heat – something that Dr. Marty Hand warns us about in his book, How to Keep Your Manicure Looking Fresh For Years Without Topcoat.)
Once the race begins, there’s also the brief moment when everyone tunes in to watch TV. You’ll have to sit through at least the first 5 or 6 miles of the race – perhaps even the whole thing – while the cameras are set up and the graphics are optimized. When it’s over, you’ll feel an instant rush of relief. But even then, the wait for the next race is already building up your stress levels. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want the race to be over as soon as possible so that you can get on with your life. (And if you’re anything like me, you’ll also be checking the clock the whole time, eager to see how much time has passed.)
The wait is one thing, but the whole experience is completely different once the race begins. First and foremost, there’s the sheer volume of cars, trucks, and other vehicles roaring around your ears. It’s a deafening din that makes it hard to hear anything, including the commands of the drivers and officials. It can also be unnerving to see so many vehicles careening down the straightaways. With so much action and noise, it can become difficult for the drivers to hear each other or follow instructions. You’ll also start to notice a less-than-stellar atmosphere, even during the early laps. The drivers tend to be a bit too aggressive, and there’s always the chance that they could step out of line and cause an accident. (Think Die Hard 4 without John McClane.) It would also be remiss of me not to point out that accidents are a common occurrence during a NASCAR race. While the series has become a bit safer over the years, there are still plenty of fender-benders and other mishaps that keep the safety crew busy all the time. (And that’s saying something, because there are so many pit stops during a typical race.)
Long Live The King
Once the race begins, you’ll notice how much time actually flies by. The speed will be increased, the corners will become narrower, and the action will become more frantic. You’ll be pressing your thighs together, trying to follow the cars as they spin around and around. It’s really something to witness, especially since the whole thing is so smooth and natural. There are no breaks or caution flags, which makes it seem like it was all just a blur. Even when the checkered flag waves, it’ll feel like just a few minutes have passed. You’ll look around to see if anyone is taking a picture of your lucky charms, and once you find them, you’ll quickly stuff them back into your jean jacket. You won’t have time to get a hot dog, much less see a movie. The only thing you’ll have time for is to rush home and get some rest.
The Whole Shebang
If you’ve seen one NASCAR race, you’ve seen them all. The grandstands, the infield, and all of the vehicles will be etched on your brain as you walk, or more likely, run, from the start to the finish. Even now, when I think about a NASCAR race, I can still feel that rush of adrenaline as I recollect the details of that unforgettable event. The pain in my hands will be instantly recognizable to anyone who knew me back then. (Although they might not believe me if I told them it was because I was waving them off to school every morning in a packed rush hour…) And let’s not forget that crazy, ecstatic feeling you get when a driver manages to pull off a miraculous comeback and wins the race. That’s the beauty of NASCAR – you never know what will happen, and there’s always the chance that someone will defy the odds and come back from a huge deficit to take the lead. The sheer unpredictability of it all is what makes it so exciting.
But it can also be pretty stressful, especially if you’re an anxious person. I’m always looking for ways to reduce my anxiety, so I tried to watch one race a month in the beginning. That way, I would have fewer stressful episodes, and I could just focus on enjoying the experience. (Although, to be fair, it didn’t quite work out like that. My anxiety levels would still be through the roof for the majority of the races. It was still a good experience, but perhaps not for the anxious person.) So if you’re an anxious person who wants to experience a bit of NASCAR, it’s best to take it easy in the beginning. Go to a local race, where you can sit in the front row and still get a decent view. It’ll still be pretty chaotic, but you’ll be able to handle it. If you’re new to the sport, it’s also best to take it easy and go to smaller races. You’ll have a better understanding of the situation and won’t overdo it. Finally, I’d recommend getting a manicure before the big race. It’ll make watching the actual event that little bit less stressful… although I guess we couldn’t have predicted this would be the case…) So sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart.
Lessons For Life
I’d like to think that the experience I had at the Kansas City Speedway was positive in so many ways. Even now, I can take some important away in terms of life lessons. For example, I learned that it’s important to be there early. Despite the fact that I had a good seat and could see the entire track, I still didn’t make it to the front until halfway through the race. That’s when all of the excitement was. Maybe if I’d gotten there a little earlier, I would have been able to see a different side of the race. (Although, as I’m sure you’ll agree, the earlier the better…) I also realized that sometimes it’s not about the destination, but about the journey. In the case of the Kansas City Speedway, it was all about the journey. The longer I spent there, the more I grew to love the place. It was about making the most out of the situation, rather than just focusing on the end result. That’s something to keep in mind, as we all know that the journey – whether it’s in life or in sports – can be as important as the destination. (Just look at my daughter, Riley, as an example. She spent her whole life in Kansas City, and even now that she’s moved away, she still thinks of it as home. And why wouldn’t she? Not only does it hold a special place in her heart, but the people there are the greatest. Everyone there supported her through her cancer treatments, and she still keeps in touch with many of them. It really is a special place.)