Anyone who has had more than a three-minute conversation with Bill any time since early January knows that this past weekend was devoted to car racing. Bill has been beside himself with excitement for what transpired at Phoenix International Raceway April 7, 8, and 9, and couldn’t curb his enthusiasm.
And for good reason, because the way Bill spent the last few days is a dream come true for a car racing fan.
It all started when he received a Christmas gift from Dave and Jll for a ride-along in an Indie car at PIR. You might recall that last Christmas he received a similar gift from them, only that time it was a NASCAR ride-along. He had such a good time last year that it was no wonder he so eagerly awaited the Indie car ride.
Bill has a way of figuring out how to make a fun activity even more fun. In his Bill-like way, he learned that the NASCAR Experience (which is the company that offers the ride alongs) offered the opportunity to DRIVE either an Indie car or a NASCAR for eight minutes by yourself in exchange for providing slave labor for three days for NASCAR Experience.
Only here’s the thing. For Bill, it wasn’t slave labor at all; rather, though it was indeed hard work, it was a labor of love. Getting to be around race cars and racing fans, being able to shoot the breeze with people who get just as excited as he does at seeing the blur of cars go by and hearing the nearly deafening noise of the cars, and talking to new friends about Chase Elliott’s chances this year all made him a happy man.
Friday and Saturday I did little more than drop him off at the race track before heading to the hotel room that we obtained so that he didn’t have to make the hour-and-15-minute drive twice a day for three days. I’ll take reading by the pool drinking a gin and tonic over talking about Dale Junior’s chances at taking it all this year with strangers any day of the week. While Bill helped men and women of all ages into race cars, I saw Beauty and the Beast. He came home smelling like exhaust fumes; I came home smelling like buttered popcorn.
But I did have the opportunity when I dropped him off on Friday morning to meet one of his co-volunteers. Surprisingly, she was a young woman in her late 20s or early 30s who is a big racing fan. Lavinia was born in Romania, but came to the United States when she was 5. Having lived in Chicago much of her life, the only trace of an accent she had was a Chicago twang. And in the It’s-a-Small-World Department, she lived only a hop and a skip from where Bill lived much of his Chicago life.
As we talked, I learned that she is well traveled, and makes frequent trips back to Europe. She told us about a recent trip she took to Paris, and how this particular visit was exceptionally exciting because it was on Bastille Day. She talked about how much energy the city had because of the holiday, and how she enjoyed the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower.
“Wasn’t there a terror attack in France that took place last Bastille Day?” I asked, being such a student of current events.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s when I was there.”
She buried the lead. Or, as they would spell it in journalism school, lede. Because SHE WAS IN FRANCE DURING A TERROR ATTACK. The surprising thing, however, was that we probably learned about the Nice attack before she did. All she knew was that it took her several hours to get back to her hotel because streets were closed. That, and she was getting frantic text messages from family and friends saying things like Mother of God! Tell me you’re hundreds of kilometers from Nice!
But back to NASCAR. And Indie cars. Because Bill had a two-in-one experience yesterday. He had his ride-along in an Indie car, which he said went extremely fast and was extremely fun. And because of his volunteer work, he drove a NASCAR all by himself. Well, sort of all by himself, because there was a man in the tower feeding him instructions on what to do, how many RPMs to get it up to on the straight-away, and ordering him to take his foot off the accelerator as he approached a curve. And getting annoyed when Bill didn’t exactly, well, obey.
As for my brother, he was able to drive in one of Jeff Gordon’s old cars, and his driver told him they reached a speed of 130 mph on the straight-away. Dave’s assessment as he emerged from the car? “That was a blast.”
You had to be there I guess.
This post linked to Grand Social.