Back in the late 60’s, the father of a friend of mine worked at the Martinsville Speedway during race week. He was one of the many locally hired hands that appreciated the extra grocery money for a couple of weeks out of the year.
Back then the track would take on a bunch of kids (that were well behaved) to “bend ’em and bag ’em” and haul out the trash. My friend was one of those kids, and he got me on. If we did good and impressed somebody, we had a quarter in our pocket when we went home and a free ticket to come to watch the time trials on Saturday.
There were no ESPN or Cable TV Channels and the networks didn’t cover NASCAR. The major markets up north had no interest in hillbillies with loud engines and fat tires running around in circles as fast as they could.
But every February, you could tune into the radio and hear the new season come to life in Daytona. Then everything got quiet for about 6 weeks until April arrived and the circuit run began. Much shorter back then, all in the south, all in circles, and all on Sunday after Church. No exceptions. When October ended the season was over. Time for football.
Back then you could get real Jesse-Jones hot dogs, smoke Marlboro cigarettes in the stands, and “chicken bone alley” really was full of chicken bones after the race.
And the winner of the race won a Ridgeway clock, actually made in Ridgeway!
Nowadays they might race on Saturday or Sunday, during the day or at night, at tracks in cities we’ve never been to or likely ever will, and every race is on TV somewhere, or on the internet, or satellite radio… and fewer and fewer people are actually going to the races.
NASCAR brings in their own security team, their own officials, their own employees to do the work the locals used to relish and the new breed of cookie-cutter drivers on cookie-cutter tracks are putting us fans to sleep.
I quit watching NASCAR races the day Dale Earnhardt died. I kept up with it as long as his son drove a car because it reminded me of his dad.
I’m having a hard time finding an excuse or a reason to care anymore.