(photos by my wife)
“America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Let me start off by saying that this is a D.C.-themed sports blog. The focus is, and will always be, on anything and everything pertaining to the District’s sports franchises. Having said that, from time to time we might wander off the beaten path just a little bit.
This past weekend, I hit the road down to the Richmond International Raceway to shoot photos of The Dan Lowry 400 race Saturday night. The way I look at it, Redskins Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs has a NASCAR team, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a diehard ‘Skins fan, so we’re justified in taking a “Ricky Bobby” moment or two on a slow news day. Which transitions nicely to this –
Hey Jeff Gordon, “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”
I don’t personally have anything against Gordon, and I’m not enough of a NASCAR fan to put him in the same category as the hated Dallas Cowboys or the Pittsburgh Penguins, but I was able to do something he wasn’t this weekend — be the lead car on the Richmond International Raceway.
That’s right, when no one was looking, I snuck out onto the track and did two laps around the raceway. The best part, we had already been stopped by a security guard (who we’ll refer to from here on out as Roscoe P. Coltrane). As soon as we came through the tunnel to actually enter the infield area, Roscoe immediately appeared out of nowhere, honking his horn to flag us down. One of the individuals in the vehicle, whom (in keeping with the Dukes of Hazzard theme) we’ll refer to as Cooter, got out of the car and gave the Obi-Wan Kenobi “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” speech and “Richmond’s finest” let us go with the understanding we’d take a quick look at the track and get out of there.
Well, “we’re just the good ol’ boys, and we’re never meaning no harm,” so we slowly cruised near pit road holding the camera out the window looking all innocent and tourist-y. We figured if he stayed there watching us, we’d snap a couple shots and get out of there, but thankfully, Roscoe didn’t let us down. He inexplicably vanished during the five or so minutes we were playing possum and that’s when we got the brilliant idea — let’s go racing!
So I took one final peak behind us to see if “Richmond’s finest” was anywhere nearby and after verifying that the coast was clear, steered the vehicle out onto the track at turn one as I hit the accelerator. We did two glorious laps (hovering around 65 miles per hour) and pulled into the pits. A quick Chinese fire drill later, and my wife was now driving. She did one lap around the track (never going more than 45 mph because she was bouncing between terrified and euphoric) and as we came around turn three I spotted a familiar foe.
Seeing us on the track after his specific orders against doing so did not sit well with Roscoe, who at this point was hauling ass to cut us off at the end of pit road. As luck would have it, we were able to make a sharp turn back into the pits and quickly head back into the infield while he was still tearing down towards turn one. Two quick left turns and we were speeding through the tunnel and off the premises before our good buddy was able to radio for help. Had we not been fortunate enough to see him as soon as we did, there’s no doubt that this story ends differently — most likely with the phrase, “and that’s how I spent the weekend in jail, your honor.”
A special thanks goes out to my wife, Cooter and Cletus (who was kind/dumb enough to let us use his vehicle for our joy-riding adventure, so that when Richmond security watches the surveillance video they’ll have his plates, not mine). Now I understand why people love NASCAR.