Did I mention I slammed doors so hard that pictures fell off the wall? In another room?
Saturdays and Sundays were tense growing up in my house.Â Our living room was the scene of many battles between my older brother and me.Â It was a race to see who got control of the only decent TV in the house for the afternoon.Â If my brother won, we were guaranteed to be watching racing, either NASCAR or Indy Racing League.Â Thatâ€™s when my whining would begin, closely followed by me stomping off to my room to pout.Â It is safe to say that the whining about watching racing went on for more than a few years.
â€œI donâ€™t wanna watch this!Â Racing is stupid!â€
All whiny little girls must grow up, so I moved in with some friends in my early twenties.Â One of my roommates turned on the NASCAR race.Â I felt myself ready to channel my inner five year old from those long ago weekend battles.
â€œDo we have to watchâ€¦.oh waitâ€¦.WHOâ€™S THAT?!?â€
What. Was. I. Thinking?!?
There on my TV was a blue-eyed, dark-haired, mullet-sporting, mustached Adonis in a rainbow-colored firesuit.Â (Cut me a little slack on the mullet/NASCAR jokesâ€¦this was the early 90â€™s!)Â I took a liking to Jeff Gordon from the moment I saw him.Â I watched his interview and not only liked that I could understand him, but that he was new to the sport as well.Â I watched that whole race with no complaint and found myself tuning in the next week all by myself.Â I had no idea what was going on, besides a lot of left turns, but I had a favorite driver and the start of a new sports obsession.
Hmmmmm, maybe this NASCAR thing isnâ€™t so bad!
So, I watched.Â I donâ€™t know that I tuned in every week, but I definitely tuned in.Â Terms like bump-drafting, loose, tight, and downforce started to make sense.Â I started to know what the commentators would say about an incident before they said it.Â I learned that a blue and yellow flag meant a slower car should yield to faster cars on the track and you never wanted to see a black flag.
My emotions went on a roller coaster ride during the races.Â I fumed when a driver was wrecked by anotherâ€™s stupidity.Â I celebrated with the winners, as long as those winners werenâ€™t named Dale Earnhardt or Rusty Wallace.Â There were tears as well.Â I cried for the loss of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin.Â The death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was like a blow to the chest.Â I donâ€™t know many of us that have gotten over seeing the wreck that took his life in turn four of the Daytona 500.Â I still tear up when I think of a legend of our sport gone too soon.
Thatâ€™s when I knew I had gone from the whiny little kid to a genuinely obsessed race fan.
We can only imagine what the future of Petty Motorsports could have been.
I attended my first NASCAR race, the Tropicana 400, at Chicagoland Speedway in 2002.Â My friend from work had received tickets and asked me to go.Â I worked overnight on Saturday, the race was Sunday, and I had to work Sunday night.Â Going to the race meant no sleep for me.Â Who could say no?!?Â I sat only a few rows up from the track in the blistering July heat.Â Kevin Harvick beat out Jeff Gordon for the win that day.Â I almost saw Jeff win!!Â I left the track that day covered in dirt, tire rubber, had no voice, and sunburned within an inch of my life.
I LOVED IT!
I credit NASCAR and a love of racing with giving me one of my best friendsâ€¦my brother.Â When we came to my mother to tell her that we were going on a weekâ€™s vacation to Bristol Motor Speedway, she was convinced that only one child would return alive.Â We bonded on that 1300 mile road trip. Â My brother isnâ€™t much of a talker, but I know we can always talk about racing of any form.Â Racing was the common bond that brought us together in ways that family or our similar music experiences never could.
I have burned up a few VCRâ€™s, now DVRâ€™s, and many miles of pavement keeping up with my NASCAR obsession.Â I have attended many more races since that first one at Chicagoland.Â Nothing compares to the rush of 43 cars flying by at almost 200 MPH.Â The excitement of being there to cheer your driver to the win cannot be expressed in words.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, I still channel that whiny little kid every once in a whileâ€¦
â€œWhy are we watching this?!?Â Donâ€™t you know NASCARâ€™s on?!?â€
Funny how things come full circle, isnâ€™t it?