Just a bit outside: Back at the track

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By Greg Waddell

I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant when I found out I could get credentials to the Quaker State 400. I’ve never really been a big fan of NASCAR and definitely never expected to go anywhere near a race.
Still, when the opportunity arose, I figured I couldn’t turn it down. A free Sprint Cup race at a speedway only 35 miles from The Era?
What’s the worst that could happen?
It wouldn’t take me long to find out — about 12 hours to be exact.
That’s how long it would take me before I ran into my first problem and precisely how my little journey started.
After hearing about last year’s traffic debacle, I figured I would play it safe and head that way a little early. The only problem? Apparently, I have no sense of time because I decided the best way to get the jump on everyone would be to leave around 11 a.m for a 7:30 p.m. race.
In my mind, with things starting that night, the roads would be clear and I would cruise into Sparta with plenty of time to beat the rush, hangout in the media center for no more than a few hours and then get my race on.
But things are never that easy.
I found out how true that could be Saturday when I tried to pick up my credentials.
Now, normally, getting into an event like this is not a big thing. Lot’s of people are covering it, so getting in is just a matter of finding the appropriate person to talk to, touching base with them by letting them know you’re interested in covering it and then picking up your passes when you get there. Fairly simple, right?
Not for me.
Originally, I had applied for two passes to the race for myself and my publisher, Tony Cotten, but because of some scheduling conflicts, he had to back out nearly three weeks before hand.
Under normal circumstances, that might have seemed like a bigger problem, but because I have a friend that loves NASCAR, happens to be a pretty good photographer and had nothing going on last weekend, I invited him along. For the time being, he would act as my stand-in Tony.
After emailing the credentials person at the track and getting a confirmation that things would be taken care of, I assumed it would be smooth sailing from there and forgot all about it... and then they got me.
Now, let me just say that I promised myself that day in the car that I would try not to be negative when I wrote this column.
Still, after the track royally — and I mean royally — messed up my requests, I had a prolonged venting session in my car with words that would make my grandmother blush.
After that though, I came to my senses, realized that I still got in and calmed down.
And then that’s when things got good.
Now, while I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still not much of a NASCAR fan, being in that setting was something I’ll carry with me until the day I die.
It wasn’t so much the excitement of getting to see the race, because, frankly, I really didn’t care about a bunch of cars driving in a circle. I think what did it for me was just the sheer size of everything. It’s a really cool feeling to look up and see nearly 100,000 people staring back at you and an even cooler feeling to see cars just 20 feet away shoot past you at nearly 190 mph.
Through it all — the drive, the walking and the nearly passing out because of heat stroke — that’s the part that most stood out to be and will be the part I’ll remember — and miss.

Greg Waddell can be reached at greg@oldhamera.com or (502) 222-7183.