By on June 13, 2014
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I am pacing back and forth in a 200 square foot wooden building that I had exchanged for a 1996 Volvo 850 sedan back in 2008.

“What the hell am I going to write about? I know nothing about racing! Zip!”

“Well Steve, maybe we can arrange for a few interviews.”

“Would they be racers?”

“Aaahhh, no.”

“Owners? Hookers? How about the guy who fires the gun?”

“What gun?”

The truth was that I didn’t want to go to any race. I had a long line of issues to deal with at the used car lot. Customers that needed help either finding cars, or paying for them.  The grass was growing back where the gravel was, and I hated to leave money on the table. If I left, either some deals would be lost, or I would have my cell phone surgically attached to my ear for the entire time.

It wouldn’t be fun. But that was the big problem for me at this point. Life wasn’t fun when it came to my daily work life. I rate every working day from a 1 to 10 scale for that key elusive ingredient known as, fun. For the past year my days have been 2′s and 3′s. They used to be 7′s and 8′s, back in the time when I had not built this beast of the business up to the point where I felt like was a subservient tail of a great big fire breathing dragon.

I was dealing with too many cars with weird problems, and amateur bullshitters who thought they could get one up on me. There were countless times over the past two weeks where I just thought about taking all my retail cars, wholesaling them, and taking time off from what had become a pressure cooker of human stupidity.

Instead, I went to my first race.

I started out driving out to Atlanta and entering a humongous underground parking deck that had at least 12 or 13 levels to it.

garage

Turn right, drive. Turn right, drive. I realized that I was doing a 15 mph version of NASCAR with an opposite turn, and all the cars thankfully either gone or parked along the side out of pity.

Once I reached the bottom of the bottom,I realized something highly unusual right off the bat.

I was the only one there.

No cars. No noise. Nothing but me and my car… that happened to have nothing in the trunk. At least for now. Gulp!

As a native Jersey boy, I briefly thought about the ease of whacking someone and moving a body in this parking garage. My southern twang belies the fact that I grew up in Northern Jersey during the Reagan era. A time and place where houses mysteriously burned down, the mafia always handled your garbage, and John Gotti was considered a not-so-bad guy.

This theatrical idea was tempered by me driving  a seven-year old Corolla instead of the black 1980 Cadillac Seville I sold earlier that week. I missed that car. After about 10 minutes of quiet and no phone signal, I met my co-rider, and we quickly made our way back up to the same part of Northwest Georgia I had just left.

Camry-Hybrid-LE-interior

We would be spending our time in a 2014 Toyota Camry LE. The type of car that no supposed enthusiast or auto journalist wants to drive. Yet what did I recommend for my mom to buy back in 2012? A Camry. That is after she pretended to be open-minded and rejected everything else in the marketplace. The brutal truth of this business is that most folks have minimal needs to get from A to B, and reliability is still the #1 driver of sales in the new and used car markets.

As I exhume myself from this tomb of automotive storage, my mind wanders to the blandness of the American driving experience. Cruise at 70. Seats comfortable. Driving straight and uneventful. Talk on cell phones.  That’s what the American open road is like these days. The media driven garbage about cars representing the penultimate of freedom and sexiness is, at least in my mind, castrated by the salient fact that everyone plays the game “follow the leader” when it comes to daily driving, and detailing is already a pure misery for most car owners.

This is what I’m thinking about while going through six different lights on one of 30+ Peachtree Streets here in Atlanta.

stoplight

I enjoy a winding one lane road as much as anyone in this business, but city driving sucks and the suburbs aren’t much better these days. Traffic is a constant pain because turn signals are optional, people play with their cell phones, and drivers often turn for the hell of it.

Cars are mostly a burden in most cities like Atlanta, and what joy can be had by revving your engine every now and then is often throttled back by a city police force whose only opportunity for pay raises is to issue more traffic tickets.

The racing world is a healthy rebellion from what has largely become a speed hating society.

The light turns green. I hit Interstate 85 and after about 30 minutes of driving, we finally become free of the monetary clutches of quick changing stoplights and legalized theft cartels. I and my co-driver are hitting 80 on our way up to northwest Georgia and beyond.

crosscountryroads

The scenery gets better. I like to tell folks that when you’re in Atlanta, you’re in Atlanta, and when you’re in Georgia, you’re in JAW-JA! Never the twain do meet.

Atlanta is a bit of a weird place. Very corporate, yet not quite conservative, and often times city officials are downright delusional about where their strengths lie. A few years ago these guys wanted to get the NASCAR Hall of Fame down here, which would have been kinda like asking the New York Yankees to move to Winnipeg.

I’m not a NASCAR enthusiast at all. But one thing I do know is that the cultures of “NASCAR Country” and “The ATL” are about as close to each other as Mercury is from Pluto.

The College Football Hall of Fame will be in Atlanta, right near Georgia Tech, which is a great fit for the culture and the community. The guy I’m riding with is pretty much a foot soldier for promoting these types of projects around Georgia, and as the scenery around us changes from commercial parks to pine trees, we start changing a bit.

Our accents become a bit more country. By seeing my neck of the woods, I begin to relax. The phone gets turned off.  The beauty of North Georgia becomes all encompassing, and I realize something at that very moment.

I needed this.

 

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15 Comments on “NASCAR For The Novice (The Prequel)...”


  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    One, delegate or stagnate. You can’t do it all. If life becomes a cortisol factory, time to do something about it before you’re in a nursing home 10 years too early. Seriously. Two, enjoy the race! I really like NASCAR, and living in NY and being fit and left of center, I stand out in places like Martinsville like a sore thumb. You will know what I mean after you are at the track. Pick a driver – I’m a 99 fan now that Mark Martin is retired – and have at it!

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Will do, and will do!

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      What he said. I got re-introduced to NASCAR thru my fiancee, a to-the-core redneck country girl and massive fan of Junior (#88, of course). We do Richmond both races every year, and I really want to get to a long track someday. It might be fun to sit in Daytona when something other than motorcycles are racing.

      Hey, she’s learned my love for MotoGP and F1. Fair trade can be very enjoyable.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What was the final selling price on the Seville?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is why I thank my lucky stars that I live in a place where the driving is good! Our rush hour lasts 10 minutes, the cops are reasonable (local municipalities get nothing from tickets), and we have decent roads for the most part. They even just raised the speed limits all over the place. Expensive to live here vs. local wages, but well worth it.

    We still have that “one big city” vs. the rest of the state thing though. Portland is very different from the rest of Maine. But it is all good!

  • avatar
    turboprius

    I enjoyed the piece, but Wachovia is back?! :O

    Also, Georgia fashion, yo. http://www.clothingstoremariettaga.com/photos

  • avatar
    Skink

    Does the owner of the building you exchanged for a Volvo back in 2008 know you’re in there?

    BTW and if you care to entertain an OT question now that you’ve destressed a bit: which would you recommend as a purchase for the same money: a second generation Jeep Liberty, or a 2009 KIA Borrego?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      That fellow died a few years ago. He owned a wrecker service. I auctioned off his abandoned vehicles, DUI impounds, and drug seized property on the last Saturday of every month. Then I would take the family out to a nearby Waffle House.

      There were actually a few times when I was given a car in compensation instead of money. One time it was a 1994 Volvo Wagon. Another time it was a 1994 Ford Taurus with surprisingly low mileage. Those deals used to always net me a lot more money than the usual cash payout from performing the auction.

      The Kia Borrego is a far better buy. The Liberty is in demand while the Borrego is virtually forgotten.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Have fun Steve ! .

    If you’re not having fun , change things .

    I eagerly await your next piece , you write so well .

    I gave up being a Journeyman Mechanic because of the damn customers plus a few A-hole bosses , I don’t miss it much because now I work on old junk when I want to and no one (but me !) ever says ‘ that’s too much $ in parts ! ‘ =8-) .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    CriticalMass

    Catoosa County awaits your return Steven, come up anytime. Some roads require a recon run for a meter maid sweep prior to coming back (or “up”- mountains) that way for a fun run but it’s worth the drive. And North/Northeast Georgia is nearby for even more selection. Great way to clear cobwebs. Better living through petrochemicals…..


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