But times have changed.
Thanks to Dave in Brighton (whose review of the day you can find here), I went to the NASCAR race in Loudon, New Hampshire on Sunday...and I really enjoyed it.
It is a very different experience, I'll put it that way. But the racing is pretty amazing to see in person. And although my mind drifted at different points during the race, it was far from boring to watch 40+ cars go around an oval 300 times (well, 284, but more on that later). The best part for me is that I have no real attachments to anyone, so there was no chance I was going to be disappointed - unless the experience was a disaster...but it wasn't.
We arrived at about 9:30am, tailagated for 4 hours, and then went into the Speedway. A couple of things about this - everyone tailgates. It is quite a scene. We could see the grandstand from where our car was - there were a ton of cars in the lots, but no one was inside. Everyone heads in about an hour or less before the race - everyone was tailgating. (And I just realized - for some of you, maybe going to NASCAR events is old hat - for me, this was my first race - just shy of my 30th birthday. So it was a new experience...bear with me.)
And this is the kicker - NASCAR allows you to bring a cooler inside, with as much beer as you can fit (or other beverages, but not many people weren't drinking beer). It's surreal. Also, you can leave and come back to get more beer, if you'd like.
Once inside, there are merchandising trucks all around the stands. They're your basic trucks, with the sides open, that you see outside of baseball stadiums, or other events (concerts, even)...except each driver has their own truck. (Well, not each one - some are grouped under their ownership, and some we couldn't find. I wanted a hat that had the #78 on it, but apparently Joe Nemechek doesn't merit his own truck.) I thought it would be cool if this translated to other sports - if each ballplayer had their own souvenir stand. I certainly would have had less trouble getting myself an Anthony Becht jersey had this been the case for all sports.
Then there's the race itself. What a cool experience. We had pretty good seats - right on a turn, so there was a lot of action - a couple of crashes, but a lot of action as far as drivers passing one another, or getting ready to pass. I don't know if it's because Loudon is a pretty small track or not, but it was amazing how quick the drivers came around the track. There was really no time to get bored because once everyone was around our curve, it seemed like a second later before the leaders were back.
As you might have read from Dave's entry, it was loud - earplugs saved the day. I had earplugs, and didn't have them in at first, thinking I'd put them in at the first caution or pit or something. Never had I seen such continuous racing as the first 55 laps or so of this race - our ears were ringing pretty good by the time we had a slowdown...but that's part of what made it exciting.
The one bad thing about the day was the way it ended. Storms were predicted right at the end of the race, and the race would have been completed if not for a couple of crashes. So a huge thunderstorm hit, and the race was called with all of the drivers who haven't won all year leading the race...and as a result I didn't have the best fantasy NASCAR day. I also got soaked - after spending about 10 minutes under the stands waiting to see if they'd call the race. And leaving the parking lot was a mess, so we sat for a couple of hours before we could do anything - and instead of the post-race barbeque, we just sat in the car, drenched, waiting out the traffic.
In the end, we were fed and kept somewhat dry under a canopy by nice NASCAR fans, until the rain stopped, and a 15-hour day came to an end. The ending put a slight damper on the experience (pun intended), but overall, this was awesome. I'm glad I had the experience - and I would go to a NASCAR event again in a heartbeat - especially now that I know how much time I'd have to put into the day.