Friday, August 26, 2011

Asheville Bed and Breakfast Enjoys a Side-Trip to NASCAR!

Yes, it's true. This Asheville bed and breakfast owner is one of the most unlikely prospects to enjoy a NASCAR event. After all, most of my favorite cultural-event-life involved the New York Philharmonic orchestra, New York City Ballet, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Opera. Although I have to say, I was also always a New York Rangers hockey fan and I grew up near an Air Force base...so loud noise ( by the planes) and collisions( by the hockey players) were also things I looked forward to.

So, not too far from Asheville (an hour and a half, lovely drive over the mountains), Bristol Tennessee is the location of the Bristol Speedway...a HUGE NASCAR venue. So why am I excited about going? Well, son-in-law is a fan, he knows a lot about cars in general, and about NASCAR specifically, so I have an 'expert' to explain everything and he'll be very excited about the whole thing. With all that, I figured if I was ever going to go to a NASCAR event, this would be the way to go.

Off we go to Bristol. I had asked him in advance, how many people the stadium seats. His answer: "Oh, I think about 160,000." Now, he's a really smart guy, but I was really skeptical...160,000? That's huge. Yankee Stadium and the Meadowlands together would not get you to 160,000...So, I googled it. Sure enough: 160,000 is the seating capacity. In fact, Bristol Speedway is the largest outdoor arena in the U.S.!. Wow, that's a lot of people....including many who bring their small children (with ear protection), because NASCAR has done a ton of work for years to ensure that this is a family-friendly event. (Who knew?)

When you arrive, everything seems huge: The distance you have to walk after you parked your car in what used to be cow pastures...the length of the jitney bus ride to get you to the stadium... the stadium itself, located on the top of a hill so it looks like a huge spaceship has just landed from Mars (Think: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"!)...the number of enormous trailers, painted with portraits of the drivers and teams, where you can buy anything imaginable with your favorite driver's picture on it...RaceTV show being broadcast from an outdoor, mobile studio, so you can wave at the cameras and see your favorite drivers being interviewed, live...Seems like a great big carnival, only there's no ferris wheel!

Oh yes, then comes the race! But even before that , there's a fly-over of some military jets....super loud. And the race drivers are all introduced...each one driven around the half-mile oval track in big black pick up trucks with the driver standing inside. Forty-three cars came out to start the race after speeches by local politicians and race sponsors. Each of the 43 cars has about 850 horse power. Let's see: that's 43 times 850 = 36,550 horse power! Until you experience it, you have NO idea how loud that is! (especially since Bristol is an oval track with stadium seating around all of it. It's like sitting in a bowl...the sound stays IN.)

Vroom, vroom...I'm sitting in the stands with a bottle of water in my hand. My hand is perfectly still...but the water is jumping wildly around in the bottle. Wow! That's the sound waves from all that horsepower hitting the water ( and you) while the race is going on! It's a very exhilarating experience! (My theory: You're getting so much massage from the sound waves, your adrenal glands are thinking you're running, too!)

Round and round they go. You can see the whole track if you're just high enough up in the stands, so you never lose sight of your favorite cars or drivers. Two-hundred, fifty times in this race, around they go. So bumps and a few spin-outs. But because the track is short, only about 128mph is about the top speed on the straightaways, even the crashes and scrapes can be fixed in a jiffy and the car gets back on the track. Pretty cool. It goes by much faster than you think because there's always something to look at...including HUGE TV screen on a column in the center of the track...and son-in-law has a 'race radio' with a splitter and ear buds for each of us, so you can also hear the professional commentary if you want.

An entirely surprising (to me) and amazing and generally fun way to spend an evening...and not too far from Asheville and our Asheville bed and breakfast!

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