This week’s road trip is a special journey through a much-loved American tradition: NASCAR. We’re going to be driving through the South, some lush, beautiful country full of hospitality, great barbecue, and rabid loyalty to the local citizenry’s sponsored stock car of choice. This is a much longer trip than last week’s – we’re going to hit eight states – so plan accordingly, i.e. a case of beer per person per day. Only to be drunk after the day’s drive is complete, of course.
If you’ve never spent much time in the South, allow me to give you some tips. Everyone smokes all the time everyplace. Don’t bother getting self-righteous about it, because they don’t care about your pinko-commie public health concerns. “Bless your heart” really means “You stupid a$$hole.” Don’t ask what a chitlin is, just eat it. The cops don’t appreciate being called Boss Hogg and don’t care that your brother is some fancypants Yankee lawyer. The national anthem is not “The Star-Spangled Banner”, it’s “Dixie.” Children own shotguns here, and they are better shots than you. And NASCAR is not a sport, it is a religion.
Start out in Virginia. Since they claim to be “for lovers” you might get lucky, especially if you offer up some tickets to a race at Martinsville Speedway. For that, though, you’ll have to wait until October. In the meantime drop in on nearby Lake Sugar Tree Motorsport Park and watch the locals battle it out in motocross. It’s a beautiful track and worth the trip for the scenery alone. For truly stunning views of Virginia spend as much as you can on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch out for the bears.
Virginia is merely a warm-up for your journey into the heart of NASCAR country: North Carolina. There are NASCAR-themed activities galore to be had, including official tours. Almost every driver’s shop is within a 50-mile radius of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Let someone like Trisha Fuller from Race Shop Tours give you an inside look at your favorite teams. You’ll have to wait until October again for a NASCAR race, but the speedway has a nicely stocked schedule of other events in August, including the Summer Shootout and the Food Lion Auto Fair.
No road trip is complete without a little healthy competition, and here’s yours. First, roshambo with your road trip partners to see who will be put in the line of fire. Loser must start a debate in a local bar, stance being that NASCAR is a setup of near WWE proportions and that the only reason Dale Jr. won the Coca-Cola 400 in 2001 is because NASCAR officials must have given him a restrictor plate with bigger holes. If you make it out without being punched in the face, your road trip partners have to pick up the gas tab for the next three days. You’ll probably be run out of town either way.
After that little Top Gear-style stunt you’re going to want to put as much distance between yourself and North Carolina as possible. Stopping in South Carolina might be risky – your reputation would have spread by now – but if you must, throw on some dark glasses and fake mustaches and swing by Darlington Raceway. They’ve got the Too Tough to Tame 200 in August and the Historic Racing Festival in late September. Get off the auto track for a bit and head out on a BMW motorcycle tour. Originating in Greer, SC, the tours run three days and they supply the bike.
Sultry Georgia beckons, and despite having nothing to do with racing at all, you’re not allowed to leave the state without spending time in Savannah. It’s about 3-1/2 hours from Atlanta Motor Speedway and exemplifies the best of what the South has to offer: historic architecture, gracious hospitality and lots of ghosts. Head to the Crab Shack for fish “so fresh you want to slap it” and Clary’s Café for breakfast. Since you’re out there already, swing by Tybee Island. Atlanta Motor Speedway has a full event schedule including Friday Night Drags, multiple racing schools and the Great Clips 300 in early September. Stuff your face with meat at Fox Brothers BBQ, and swing by Harold’s for classic Brunswick Stew.
Next week: Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Yee haw!
If you’re serious about taking a NASCAR roadtrip, pick up a copy of the Rand McNally Ultimate NASCAR Roadtrip Guide. It has a ridiculous amount of information on every NASCAR track in the country so you can follow the series around like the Grateful Dead.
The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at http://doyoucomewiththecar.blogspot.com. And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at Thetruthaboutcars.com