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Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Hanging out in the infield 
at the UAW-GM Quality 500

By Lin Loflin
October 10, 2000

 

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Bill Elliott's Drive Thru crew tend to his car in the garage.  Photo Credit: Robert Evans Smith

We toured the pits and talked briefly to a few of the crew who were busy setting up their particular car for the day's race. It was a frenzied pace with little time for socializing. 

The air was permeated with that pungent, unmistakable odor of exhaust, as car after car revved up what they hoped was the winning engine of the day.

Finding things a little hectic for conversation, much less an interview, we wandered by Bill Elliott's truck just in time for a quick handshake and to wish him luck before he was off to the driver's meeting.

Pre-race excitement was evident wherever we looked. Fans were lined up four and five deep at the various souvenir trailers looking for the latest and greatest race collectible. Being a very cold and overcast day, race jackets with a favorite driver's colors seemed to be the item of the day, even if some were selling for $85.00 a piece. 

Wandering past food vendors, we noted the lines even longer. Fans were eager to purchase hot coffee selling for $3.00 a small cup and a cold cinnamon bun for a mere $4.00.

Almost race time. We dodged cars being paraded out onto the track accompanied by the frantic whistles blown to get fans out of the way.
Time to find a place to watch the race.

Lowe's Motor Speedway's famous turn 4 had motor homes pressing against the fence. We noticed one with a cannily constructed wooden platform complete with guardrails. Well within the 12' high ruling for infield scaffolding, and attached to the white motor home, we knew the view was going to be spectacular. 


Danny Fritts, Gary Norman and Kelly Hedrick.  Photo Credit: Robert Evans Smith

Danny Fritts, Gary Norman, and Kelly Hedrick, who rent the space and share the motor home, invited us to join them on the platform. In spite of the brisk wind, they opted to pop open cold cans of Budweiser, which they offered to share as well. We found these Winston-Salem, N. C. guys, like others found in the infield, were the soul of Southern hospitality. 

Settling down in comfortable canvas folding chairs, we waited for the "start your engine" call as we listened to the good-natured bantering among the three men. Each man pulled for a different driver, but each admitted they were there just for the fun and excitement. Bets were no more than a cheeseburger. One guy was already down four cheeseburgers, but took the ribbing in good humor. He laughingly patted his pockets as he pulled earphones over his ears. "I'm ready for battle," he said. "I've got an extra pack of cigarettes, a cold Budweiser, my scanner, and extra batteries!"

From the turn 4 platform, the whole racetrack was spread out in a cacophony of sights, smells, and noise. We noted people from all over the country, from Kinston, N.C. to Hartford, Connecticut. Despite the geographic difference, they all have one thing in common. They are all devoted race fans. 



A contrast in wealth.  Photo Credit: Robert Evans Smith

The variety of 'home away from home' vehicles is vast. We noted one transformed school bus called the 'half and half'. Divided straight down the middle, one side was painted with the fan's favorite driver's colors. The other side displayed a rival race driver's colors. Half a million dollar motor homes sat side by side with rusted vehicles. Dale Earnhardt flags fly proudly beside the flag of the United States of America. Almost all stand reverently for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

The race starts with a roar of approval heard even over the deafening thunder of the cars. We graciously and thankfully accepted orange earplugs from our newfound friends.

Cars flash by so quickly you see them in a blur of color until smoke obscures our vision briefly. A wreck in turn 4 sends cars spinning in all directions as we view the carnage from above.

Settling down again, we lean back to enjoy the day. It was an experience to remember. We especially enjoyed our friends. After all, they did have the only key to the padlocked port-a-john.

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