Although the weather in South Carolina was cold and rainy when we got here last weekend, it is living up to its hot and humid reputation today. We're glad we bought an extra generator so we have enough juice to run the A/C. When we attended the time trials for tomorrow night's Nextel series, the track announcer kept talking about the heat keeping the qualifying times down, because it makes the track slippery. There must be close to fifty cars here trying to qualify for tomorrow's big race and they drive one at a time to qualify. From comments the track announcer made, it sounds like some drivers will be included automatically, but others have to drive fast enough to make the cut. After about five cars drove one or two laps - their choice - my mind started to wander. I enjoyed all the brightly painted cars with crews brightly attired to match. The crews pushed the cars into the lineup, towing what looked like large generators. We've been told that they heat up the car's fluids for optimal performance before driving begins. The flagman was also fun to watch. He has a swirling technique that makes that flag whip around as if he were in an Olympic event himself.
When we'd had enough we wandered back to camp through the gauntlet of official vendors. It looked like nearly every driver has an 18 wheeler devoted to selling merchandise with his name on it. T-shirts, hats, visors, and seat cushions were to be had at them all. Somehow I wouldn't feel like I was paying homage to Dale Earnhardt by sitting on his name... Since we have no attachments to anyone but the drivers whose names we drew at this morning's lottery, it was easy to keep walking. I wasn't very tempted by the fried bologna sandwich vendor either. Many of our fellow participants have rented head sets which they can use to listen to various drivers talking to their crews throughout the race. Some of them also come with mini TV's so they can watch the cameras on the cars and the TV coverage as well. Clever Ken got a list of the radio frequencies they use and tuned his scanner. It has made the watching more interesting for him, but he has no idea who he is listening to.
The evening race surprised me in some ways, I had no idea that so much of it would have been driven under the yellow flag. Every time the cars got up to speed someone would hit the wall, or nudge another driver, chunks of car would fly, smoke would billow, and the pace car would come out to slow everyone down again. Altogether this happened ten times. No one was hurt, but one car had to be towed off the track and some were in need of extensive body work by the end. Two cars came so close to each other, that the friction of their wheels turning, carved large circles into their sides. Pit crews quickly changed their tires and they were good to go. The last melt down occurred when their were less than ten laps to go, so they red flagged the racers so that the race wouldn't end with them driving the leisurely yellow pace and being unable to pass one another. When the were up to speed, the cars went by so fast I couldn't make out their numbers and I was glad to have the TV monitor to consult. Once I saw that the lead car was red, I could study all the red cars with binoculars and try to follow him. What was supposed to be a two hour race lasted more like three.