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DATE News (chronologically)
08/18/13
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NASCAR Nationwide crowd dwarfs IndyCar at Mid-Ohio (Update) UPDATE
There were thousands of people all around the Mid-Ohio track Saturday
[Editor's Note: Stick a fork in IndyCar at Mid-Ohio]  Once a NASCAR race comes to a track, except for Indy, eventually the IndyCar race dies and goes away.] Fred Mengerink has been coming to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for about 15 years.

He’s never experienced a day like Saturday for the inaugural running of the NASCAR Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200.

“This is the most people I’ve ever seen here,” Mengerink said. “I hope they continue to do it.”

Fans flocked to the NASCAR race from all over. A cursory search of the parking lot showed vehicles from Alabama, Nevada, Connecticut and Ontario, Canada.

Despite the crowds, traffic was not a factor before the race. The only holdup was right before the track entrance. There were no issues along Lexington’s main roads.

Mengerink, of Upper Sandusky, is a season-ticket holder, which allows him to choose a prime location for his camper. He opted for a spot in the Esses, calling it the widest and most level spot on the campgrounds.

Mengerink looked forward to the NASCAR race.

“I’m not a big NASCAR fan, but this is cool,” he said.

He brought his wife, Judy, who was making her first trip to Mid-Ohio.

“The people here have been really friendly, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said.

Also sitting in the Esses, but not camping, was Don “Hot Rod” Large, of Columbus. He calls himself a big fan of both NASCAR and Mid-Ohio.

“This is my seventh trip to Mid-Ohio,” Large said. “This is our spot.”

The shirtless Large predicted good things for the NASCAR race.

“It’ll be awesome,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting — the passing — because it’s a narrow track,” he said. “They (NASCAR drivers) can rub fenders. The IndyCars can’t.”

Reading a mystery novel on her Kindle before the race, Georgeann McMullen, of Mansfield, sat not far from Large at Turn 4. McMullen sported Harley-Davidson earrings.

“I’ve been riding since 1974,” she said proudly.

McMullen had never been to Mid-Ohio before.

“It’s very nice,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day.”

McMullen said her granddaughter’s favorite NASCAR Nationwide driver is Austin Dillon.

“He’s the one that wears the cowboy hat,” McMullen said.

She noted the wide-screen TV across the track would enable her to see the entire race, not just Turn 4.

Daniel Beaver, of Pataskala, has a season pass and attends almost every race. He stood by a fence at Turn 6 with his camera ready.

“This is probably one of the best spots, other than the Carousel, because it’s so unobstructed,” Beaver said. “I do the photography for myself. I post it on Facebook.”

Maryanna Price, of Westerville, sat in a golf cart near the start-finish line with her grandson, Elliot Scott, who is not quite 2. Price and her husband paid a cool $300 to rent the golf cart for two days.

Price said she is a fan of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, as well as Nationwide.

“We brought two of our 10 grandkids,” she said, glancing over at Elliot behind the wheel of the golf cart. “He was a little nervous about the noise, but now he’s OK.”

Elliot clapped his hands as the Trans-Am drivers from an earlier race zipped past.

Not everyone was fired up about NASCAR.

Linda Roope-Shields, of Ostrander, and Wyvetta Davenport, of Ashley, sat in the cool breeze behind their camper, enjoying a snack.

“We came along with our husbands,” Roope-Shields said.

Davenport added, “They’re into it. We’re just into the atmosphere.”

Some enterprising residents along Steam Corners Road tried to make a profit from NASCAR fans before they made it to the track. Two women sat under a canopy, offering baked goods, while another neighbor posted a sign to advertise parking at $30 a vehicle.

It was all part of the atmosphere Davenport mentioned.

As he made his way to his seat just before the green flag, Perrysville resident Kerry Rich praised the historic occasion.

“I’ve always said NASCAR ought to come to Mid-Ohio,” he said. “I knew they’d come here someday.”

08/18/13 Following the drivers’ meeting at about noon Saturday, Craig Rust was beaming.

“It’s awesome,” the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course President said.

The inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 had yet to start, but the day was boding well.

“The traffic hit us first thing in the morning and it’s just been flowing on. People are getting in which is important,” he said. “It’s filling up. From our standpoint, as long as traffic is flowing (it is OK). It’s going to be slow when you get this many people out here.”

The size and scope of the NASCAR Nationwide Series calling Mid-Ohio home this weekend was evident. The track was using the northeast lot Saturday, which has seldom been used since the glory days of CART in the 1990s.

The campground was full. The Friday fireworks show was well received. The weather was perfect for race day. But Rust wasn’t ready for a victory lap yet.

“You just keep going,” he said, before the start of the race. “You want to get to the green flag and make sure the fans are having a good time. It’s great to see the fans and so far, so good, knock on wood.” Mansfield News Journal

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