If I had to chose between watching a NASCAR race or going to a dirt track, NASCAR would be highly disappointed. Trust me, I try to avoid that choice at all costs, but it’s the truth; I would watch Sprints and Late Models over Stock cars in a heartbeat.
It’s not that my love of NASCAR is waning. That will never happen.
There is nothing I love more than a good old dirt track experience. Walking through the pit area, losing your hearing, meeting new people, waking up with dirt in your nose. It’s the best thing in the world, especially at my local dirt track, Attica Raceway Park. Famous for Attica Ambush, the track is 1/3 of a mile and clay. When you stand on top of the stands before the activities begin, it’s like peeking at a gift before it’s wrapped.
People always told me, “Once you’ve seen dirt racing, you’re hooked.” I didn’t understand why they would tell me that; there couldn’t be much of a difference, right? When my parents and I entered the gates for the first time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Trailers were set up down the paved walkway, offering T-shirts, DVDs of races, and bumper sticks with phrases like “Eat My Dust” and “Dirt Tracking or Bust.” The greasy scent of Fair food came through, from hot dogs to deep fried Oreos. It was already loud from fans yelling and chanting, and Quick Times hadn’t even started yet. So much enthusiasm just for being at the track was a great sign for my first World of Outlaws race.
For thirty more bucks, you get to explore the pit area, where my eyes were opened wide. You could feel the determination and hope in the air, making chills slither down my spine. By a little hut, a line was formed by guys with fire suits tied out their hips, signing up for the events. They were trying to contain it, but young drivers were vibrating out of their shoes, excitement mixing with nerves. All they ever wanted was this chance, and it was a reality then. Going up to the machines, I realized how technical and confusing they were. The most shocking thing was that some of the drivers had to work on their rides by themselves. No fancy-shmancy pit crews or car chiefs, just the knowledge they gained from their fathers and two hardworking hands. It’s a flashback to those Good Old Days my grandfather tells me about, before NASCAR went ‘flashy,’ as he calls it. Even if I’m young, I appreciate the old fashion way of doing things. Seeing sweat slip down the driver’s forehead as he made adjustments asserted his dedication to the sport. That brought a smile to my face.
After some of that fattening Fair food, my parents and I sat down for the Heat Races. At this point, I couldn’t sit still. The bleachers were rumbling with anticipation, and this wasn’t even the Main.
The green flag fell, and it was a epic fight for position, a shot into the Big Show. Dust entered the air and my nose, but I didn’t think twice about it; the racing had captured my full attention, my eyes lost in the endless, action-packed laps. This is when I decided that the Sprints were my favorite. Sure, the Late Models were awesome, but it was too much sheet metal for me. The drivers of Sprints have to be pretty dang tough to slide around with a small roll cage the only barrier between the ground flying beneath you.
When I was a little girl, I saw a Sprint car up close and told my dad I wanted to drive one. “I want to go fast,” was my only argument to him telling me no. I guess it was in my blood from the beginning. Watching the death traps glide around like skaters on smoothed ice, I realized it was the right thing to not pursue that dream. I would’ve cry during the pace laps, no doubt. Not badass enough.
Each make went through their Heat Races, and the C and B-Mains went, so it was time for The Big One. Not that large wreck at Talladega and Daytona people assume will happen. No, it’s the A-Main. The best of the best dueling for the top prizes, glory and cash. This was the World of Outlaws, the toughest racing on dirt. It definitely lived up to it; on the second lap, a car went out of the track. Three laps later, three Sprints got together. That’s how it was for the entire feature. The carnage didn’t appeal to me, however, it was ability of these mad men. Coming off the high side with so much speed, yet keeping it under control in the middle of a dust storm.
The bad part was the fact that we had to leave. My legs were aching from walking around all over the place, and there was no way I could breathe. We managed to dodge traffic and get on the road by midnight. Glancing out my window, the dust was still lingering, a broken up vortex of dirt and victory.
A smile slipped into place. I was hooked, like everyone told me I would become. The dirt is what got me. It’s synonymous with country, a Tough As Nails demeanor, simplicity. Getting away from the large microscope that NASCAR is under, going to that dirt track you’ve need even glanced at before.
That’s where the best racing takes place. Everything else can eat my dust.