NASCAR AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
What are you doing next weekend?
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Mar 17, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
What Are You Doing Next Weekend? Sports offer many thrilling moments. The pass stretched out for and caught for a touchdown. The extension of a pitcher’s body when the ball is flung at the plate in the effort to elude the opposing batter. The puck flipped up over the goalie’s shoulder and just under the crossbar to win a playoff game. None replicates the moment that a green flag drops and forty-three cars, each with more than 800 horsepower, mash pedal to metal and go flying into turn one at an oval race, their tires barely able to contain the forces of physics which want to fling car and driver directly into the wall approaching at tremendous speed. Other sports actually try to replicate the charge of this moment for their fans. Consider the light and sound show that accompanies the entry of “Your Los Angeles Kings” onto the ice night by night in downtown LA. It’s a crystallizing instant. But it’s not the same as the first turn at a car race, because nothing happens just because the team comes onto the ice. Play starts after that. But in racing, green flag means go, and you’re guaranteed that something will happen, soon, as the entire field rushes in a giant pack at the first turn. And you, you lucky So Cal fan, have the opportunity to experience this for yourself on the weekend of March 22-24 out at Auto Club Speedway. So forget your prejudices about the Inland Empire, if you have any. And forget your grudge against NASCAR as a “good old boys” network with all the technological sophistication of the Duke boys trying to outrun the sheriff on TV, because that’s nowhere close to the truth about a modern stock car race car or team, which is a delicate dance of engineering know-how and good old fashioned guts. You think it’s easy driving at roughly 200 mph? Remember when Mike Tyson was champion of the world and your uncle Louie the carpet salesman used to say, “Give me a million. I’d get in there with him, run around, and then fall down”? Know why he never got the chance? Because watching him do that wouldn’t be entertaining. It’s the same thing with racing. The reason the people who are in the cars are in the cars is that they’re really talented at what they do, which is to find the line between fast and disaster. (And, at times, to be willing to go past it, with the risk inherent in that.) And if you’re at the race, you’ll see, and hear, for yourself how hard that is. I’m not urging you to become a lifelong NASCAR fan, though you might find yourself doing just that. What I’m saying is that you won’t soon get over the visceral thrill of experiencing this kind of racing up close, and you get just one chance a year without driving further than Fontana. Past that, there’s a lot to like about NASCAR right now. For one thing, the cars are all-new in the top (Sprint Cup) series this year. More on that in the next story to be filed here. Further, there are always lots of stories. In fact, following racing is kind of like following a soap opera, with the human element as interesting, by times, as the cars themselves. Did you know that two of the Sprint Cup series drivers, a man and a woman, are a couple? How about that there are a number of young guns trying to outrun the established players? Or that the age spread between the oldest entrant and the youngest spans more than three decades? What about that there are always a number of ongoing feuds which stem back to races past, incidents on track, and temper flare-ups in the garage? Sure, it’s theater in some ways, but if it’s in three acts, they start with qualifying speeds close to 190mph, move to a race which spans 200 laps of the 2-mile track, and finish with who knows how many of the 43 drivers surviving the dangers and mechanical perils that 400 miles of racing throws at them. I have no stake personally in seeing you buy a ticket. In fact, on Sunday, when the big series runs, the place will likely be full with or without you. But I can tell you from experience that seeing this spectacle for yourself beats watching it on TV more than is true in any other sport. TV usually enhances the viewing experience. In racing, it can’t show you the speed, the noise, the risk, or the way the cars move, skittering to the edge of wrecking every lap. You have to be there to get that.
And if you want a budget option for a near-same experience, then think about going out on Saturday, when the second series runs. That, for you who don’t know, is called the “Nationwide Series,” and the cars that compete in it are Camrys, Mustangs, and Camaros. They’re nearly as fast as the main series’ cars are, and oftentimes when the two series compete at the same track, there are a number of them driven by Sprint Cup competitors. So you’re quite likely to have the chance to see Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and other Cup regulars take the wheel on Saturday. Those names new to you? Try them on for size. Give it a go by following the media about the race over the next week. And then find your way to Fontana on the weekend. If you don’t love it, I’d be surprised. Tickets for practice and qualifying Friday are $20. Nationwide on Saturday starts at $30, and Sprint Cup Sunday starts at $35. See autoclubspeedway.com for information. Keep looking here for more stories on the race this week. Next up: the NASCAR car is described and dissected. - Brian Kennedy Follow me @growinguphockey, if you’re into the Twitter thing.