NASCAR is in Phoenix? It's wet and cold back in the Midwest. There can be only one logical choice. See if we can get tickets to the NASCAR Races at Phoenix International Speedway!
We did just that. After a frustrating attempt to secure tickets through ticket master for the Friday night Bashar 200 and the Saturday night Subway 500 we called the ticket office direct at the Speedway and within minutes secured our tickets. Quite frankly at such a late date at getting tickets we would have been happy with any seat just for being able to have our "first" experience at actually attending a race. We have been huge NASCAR fans and fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in particular and have cheered and screamed at the television on Sunday afternoons for a long time now, and to finally get the chance to sit in the stands, hear the roar of those engines, and maybe get a chance to see Dale Jr. up close and personal, was going to be a dream come true.
While still having our RV parked in Casa Grande, Arizona we programmed the GPS for the address of the Phoenix International Raceway and early in the day on Friday we headed in the car for the "will call" window to pick up our tickets for Saturday nights Sprint Cup Race. This was Friday and we had also purchased Pit Passes which would allow us in to the pits for both Friday and Saturday. Our plan was to maybe buy tickets for the Nationwide Bashar 200 to be held Friday night. After parking the car we were approached by a fellow in the parking lot asking if we needed tickets for any of the races. Since we maybe only needed Friday night tickets, we inquired. We were assured what he had was a bargain, and the best seats available right behind the flag man, in the 29th row. I knew from my phone call to the track ticket office that what they had available were in the bleachers, down the track a ways, and I had been told what the cost was. This dapper fellow had "best seats available", right behind the flag man, row 29, and they were only $5.00 more than I had been quoted for the bleachers. I know what you are thinking------. Just in case, I had Kathleen take his picture as I told him if these seats were not as advertised I wanted to be able to pick him out in the crowd! He gave a big smile and Kathleen clicked away.
As you will see by some of the pictures, the seats were as he said, excellent and right behind the flag stand. We could not have done better if we had purchased them months ago. Not only were we going to see Friday nights race in style, we were also going to be able to witness the last Sprint Cup practice before tomorrows race and that would mean Jr. and others would be making some hot laps.
The walk through the pits, and Friday nights Nationwide Series race were exciting and like a couple of kids just off the farm, we tried to take it all in, including the jumbo hot dogs, pop, and fries. This was great, but our real excitement and the chance to see Jr. would have to wait for the big event Saturday night.
Like two kids waiting for the county fair to arrive we were so full of adrenalin that sleep did not come easy; we popped out of bed early Saturday morning and headed for the track. We were veterans now, having surveyed the layout on Friday. We headed immediately for the pits full of anticipation. Seeing the cup cars, the pit boxes, the stacks of tires, the spotless and beautifully painted semi trucks, watching the pit crews finalize preparation and getting photos of some of the drivers and team owners, including Mike Helton, the president of NASCAR talking to Jack Rousch a team owner, we still had not caught up with Dale Jr.
We wandered the pits taking it all in, me with a back pack chocked full of essentials, that we thought we might need throughout the day. The sun was relentless, and as it crossed the 90 degree mark we headed for the shade under the stands. It was still hours before the actual race would start, but people watching and perhaps hot dogs and a coke would not be all bad.
Our seats for the "big race" were in the Petty bleachers, section OO, row 27 (near the top), right across from the pit entrance, as the cars come out of turn four. Excellent seats and we could not be happier. One hour prior to driver introductions we took our seats as did thousands, and thousands, and thousands------of others.
The festivities leading up to the start of the race are as you see them every week on TV, except they take on a different perspective if you are front and center to witness them as they unfold. There is the introduction of dignitaries, the pre race entertainment (army precision skydive team), driver introductions and their ride around the track as they wave to the crowd from the back of a pick up truck, the invocation, the singing of the National Anthem, the fly over by five jets in formation, and finally "Gentlemen, start your engines."
Once those engines come to life and the thunder in the valley intensifies, the pace car leads the field out of turn four and peels off in to the pit lane, and you watch the flag man throw the green flag, you realize what this sport is all about. It's thousands, and thousands, and thousands of "good ole' boys and gals", the true heart of America, coming together to wear the colors of your favorite team and driver and cheer like crazy when their car makes progress no matter what position they are running in, because, its all about the points.
We did not get a close up photo of Dale Jr., we did not get his autograph, but we did each buy an official #88 hat, and each an official #88 seat cushion. We may one day get that picture and his autograph as for sure this "tininthewind" has wheels. It was an awesome experience. See you at the Races!