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The Richmond Experience

By Wyatt Earp | September 11, 2007

Editor’s Note: This post is a tad long, but I wanted to mention everything about the weekend. Sorry.

A few months ago, my brother (known here as Randal Graves) invited me to a bus trip he was taking to the NASCAR race in Richmond, Virginia. For $254, the trip included bus transportation to and from the track, hotel accommodations for one night, and the race tickets. Being a NASCAR fanatic, I heartily accepted. Giddyup!

Since the bus left at 7am, I slept over at Randal’s humble abode. 5am comes pretty quickly, but our excitement overcame any sleep-deprivation. Before we knew it, we were sitting on the bus, placing bets with our companions – Randal’s father-in-law Ed, and his brother-in-law, also named Ed. The air conditioning felt good in the early summer heat, but that would soon change. Note to bus company: when you suffer from frostbite after sitting next to a vent for 15 minutes, it’s time to turn down the settings!

The trip from Philly to Richmond – with an hour stop for lunch in Maryland – was scheduled to last about 5-6 hours. So, Randal brought his handy-dandy portable DVD player. There were screens on the bus, but you never know what you’ll get. This was never more relevant than when our first movie selection was made for us: Larry the Cable Guy in Health Inspector. As Randal and I groaned, he made a funny: “Who in their right mind would BUY this movie?” Like rubberneckers at an auto accident, we could not look away.

Strangely enough, the film was not that bad. It had a lot of poop and fart humor, which is right up Randal’s alley, and it co-starred hottie Megyn Price, formerly of Grounded for Life. Our luck stopped there, because our next film choice was Fast Track, starring Zach Braff. Can someone answer me a question? Why is this butt-ugly, no-talent slob famous? But I digress. Not wanting to be subjected to more visual punishment, Randal popped in Clerks II. Nice! By the time the last “porch monkey” joke was uttered, we were at our destination.

We stopped at the hotel to drop off our things, then immediately set off for the track. The tour group wanted to get us to the complex by 4pm, giving us three and a half hours to eat, drink, and shop before the green flag was dropped. It was here where we found Randal’s pink hat. Young Ed made a joke about seeing Randal in pink. Randal replied – because you never dare Randal to do anything – “You buy it, I’ll wear it!” We did, and he did. Best money we’ve ever spent.

We also had the opportunity to get photos of some of the show cars, like this one from Scott Riggs . . .

After browsing the souvenir trailers and finding free food samples – Randal scores again! – we searched for some grub. Young Ed and Randal snagged some barbecue, while Father Ed and I scored some burgers. It was here that I fell in love. (This is where the missus should stop reading. Heh)

Regular readers of SYLG – all four of you – know full well that the Wyatt Babe Hierarchy goes as follows: Redheads, Southern Accents, Redheads with Southern Accents. The girl at the counter was the latter. As I approached the counter, she looked at me, smiled, and said “Ha!” Normally, I would have thought that she saw how disturbingly ugly I was, and was starting to laugh. But then it hit me: I was below the Mason-Dixon Line. She was saying “Hi!”

The rest of the conversation was a blur. I think I ordered a cheeseburger, but what the hell do I know? I am pretty sure that I left the counter with a stupid grin on my face, and she probably told all of her friends all about the “Idiot Yankee” she had to serve. Oh well.

After dinner, we trekked to our seats inside the track. The first thing Father Ed and I noticed was the stairs. To get from the ground to our section, we had to climb 6 flights of stairs, with 20 stairs on each flight. (I counted.) After the second flight, I was in excruciating pain – my knee, remember? – and was dragging myself up at an incredibly slow pace. For the record, I was wearing my brace, but it didn’t help. I made the decision then and there to not take on the stairs again – at least until after the race. Anyway, this is where we ended up:

The view from our seats at Richmond International Raceway. The Start/Finish line is on the left, far side of the track near the American flag.

Our seats were, in a word, frakkin’ awesome! We were only a few rows from the top of the track, but it appeared that we were so close to the action. This was the time to straighten out our pools – the four of us put up $10 apiece for whomever’s favorite driver scored the best finish. Randal took our money with his pick of Tony Stewart. We also tallied up our Tour Bus Pools. Great idea: the guy running the trip was holding pools where you could pick a number out of a hat, and if you’re driver took a top three position, you’d win cash. It made the trip more fun in my book – especially since Randal and I made $11 from David Ragan’s third-place finish.

Of course, the girl next to us who picked eventual winner Jimmie Johnson THREE TIMES made out a little better. She won $190.

The race was about to start, and we took in all of the glory, from the parachutists . . .

to the C-130 flyover:

The race began, and I immediately remembered why Randal brought his ear plugs. 43 cars racing around a half-mile oval is not conducive to good ear health. With Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon (two of my three favorite drivers) starting first and second, it figured to be a good night for Wyatt. And when Jeff Gordon started to dominate the first half of the race, the night just got better.

Gordon was running on a rail for most to the night, and then the unthinkable happened: that jerkass Tony Stewart took the helm. Fat Tony went on a tear of his own until the cautions came out – there were 11 of them – and he had to pit. In almost every instance, Stewart’s crew made him lose positions because of slow changes. HA! At one point, he yelled to his crew: “At least we’re f**king consistent!” The cool thing about NASCAR is that you can hear your favorite driver’s pithy comments through a scanner, which the guy sitting next to Randal was enjoying.

Toward the end of the race, it was clear that Jimmie Johnson was the man to beat. The fact that he was extending his lead due to the most exciting part of the race didn’t hurt, either . . .

Ooh, a three-way!

While Johnson was cruising to a healthy lead (and eventual win), very few fans sat down during the last 50 laps. Why? because Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and David Ragan were fighting tooth-and-nail for the second position. Passes were plentiful, and three-wide racing was the norm during this battle, and even Randal admitted it was some of the best racing he has ever seen. I concur.

Eventually, Dale Jr’s engine blew up, as did his chances of making the Championship Chase, Tony Stewart took the coveted second spot, Ragan finished third, and Gordon finished fourth. Johnson cherished yet another win, and did a kickass burnout in front of the finish line, before coming to our side of the track to do one for us as well . . .

All in all, it was a terrific trip. Y’all are welcome to come along next year!

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