Your first of anything is always a big deal, first day of school, first girlfriend/boyfriend, first kiss these are the type of moments that stay with us forever and can shape how we view future events in our lives. Sport plays a major part in these memories and can shape not only where our life long loyalties lie but also who we love to hate and how we view the sport in general.
I can still remember my first football match (the soccer version) it was in 1988 and it was Lincoln City v Wycombe Wanders that Lincoln won 2-1 and from that moment on I became a City fan and still am 25 years later. Although it was seeing my first Rugby League match in 1990 that pulled me away from soccer and led to my supporting of the Leeds Rhinos. My first NFL match was a much more recent affair in 2011 I fulfilled a life long dream of seeing the New York Giants at home and I can still vividly remember every single moment from the journey there to waiting outside and the atmosphere as the teams came out. But next weekend I will fulfil one of my remaining sporting dreams and attend my first NASCAR race.
I’ve got vague memories of watching this strange motorsport with my dad once where the tracks are round, strange-looking cars that are driven by people with strange names, Dick Trickle, Sterling Martin (I even thought the announcer was mispronouncing the name of a F1 driver by saying the name Ernie Irvan!). The memory that sticks in my mind is watching in amazement as a caution came out and suddenly all 43 cars came into the pits. We couldn’t believe that it would actually work and that surely everyone would hit each other and it would be chaos. But sure enough everyone made it out safely and they went back to banging and barging on the track. Coverage was few and far between back then so it was a while until I realised what it was that I had watched let alone the magnificent heritage and showmanship that the sport has.
While I always enjoyed watching the races to me it was a sport that was happening far away from me and while it was always fun to watch on TV that’s as far as it would ever go. But than a couple of years ago I got a chance to write about the sport and I threw myself in full tilt and found another layer to the sport that thanks to social media I was completely unaware of. I am far from unique, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of NASCAR fans on this side of the pond and many are far more of a devoted fan than I could ever hope to be. I am also not the only person to be writing about NASCAR over here there are many websites and publications that do exactly the same but I do feel honoured that I at least to get an opportunity to write about the sport that means so much to me and am constantly amazed anyone ever reads this stuff!
So when my wife and I decided to revisit America this year I made it clear that we had to include a trip to a race. I wanted to hear the roar of the V8s, feel the wind whip by me as the pack races by, smell the gas and burning rubber in the air and actually watch a race with other fans and be able to have a chat with other people who are fans. Not to mention experience the pre race atmosphere, spend lots of money on merchandise and eat a lot of unhealthy food. I decided that there was no better place to lose my NASCAR virginity than the home of the sport, Charlotte Motor Speedway. After a phone call and a few emails not only have I got myself a pair of tickets but thanks to the very nice people in the Communications Department at CMS I also got a couple of pit passes thrown in for good measure. To top it all off I then got contacted and asked if I wanted to feature in their race day programme, as if I wasn’t already excited enough!
I’ve got so many expectations of what to expect and all the amazing stuff I am going to see both at the race and at the Hall of the Fame that I’ve been counting down the hours until we arrive in Charlotte. I won’t be the only fan there who is at their first race and I am not even going to be the only Brit there, but I will be the guy who has the biggest smile on his face. If you see a guy with a @NASCARFansUK t-shirt on (or you recognise me from my picture in the programme) then come over and say hi and help make my special day even more special. Plus if you have any tips of things to bring, do, or see than please get in touch!