It's good to be king

By Brian Howard

Richard Petty is the king in NASCAR and AC/DC is a rock legend.

When you put the two together, you get several racing fans for one of the biggest weekends in Octobber at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Pro Bass Shops MBNA 500.

Although I am an average race ran with a favorite drive, who will not say, I approached Sunday's race with the best intentions.

It was my first time covering a NASCAR race. I had been to Darlington once before on a family vacation, but had never experienced the thunder and the roar of a NASCAR event.

The day started out promising under sunny skies and the trip to the track didn't take as long as I had expected.

But on the trip to the track, I noticed some things about race fans. They are loyal, dedicated and in some cases, insane. Who would want to spend from Thursday through Sunday at the racetrack and more importantly, what about an income? Who would want to wait after the race for the drivers' trailers to drive by? Like there is actually a driver inside those.

Then I finally realized that NASCAR is more than just a sport. It is a fan-friendly sport. Thus by making the statement, I put the sport in my top four (football, baseball, basketball and NASCAR).

After arriving, I went into the media center and started to gather information on the drivers. I overheard a few NASCAR officials talking about the drivers meeting, which would begin around 10:45 a.m. I made my way into the room and stood just a few short arm lengths from car owner Roger Penske and race car drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, which were in good spirits.

Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman were the only two to ask questions in the meeting pertaining to the pit-road speed and after the meeting concluded, the drivers participated in a church worship service.

As I had time to kill, I walked along pit road. Talk about amazement. I mean the area was filled with fans trying to take pictures of their favorite drivers car to talking with pit members.

With time ticking down, the drivers made their way through introductions to their cars. And with AC/DC's “For those about to rock” blaring on the loudspeaker, the drivers started their engines.

To me, this may be the single best part of the race. You can give me eight cautions, several green flag starts, lots of wrecks (which I didn't see) and a checkered flag, but I just love the roar of the engines. Call me hooked right now!

Ryan Newman jumped out to the lead on the first lap, but it didn't take Carl Edwards long to get ahead on the second lap. But the biggest roar came when Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lap shortly after the seventh lap.

My love for the sport took another turn as I walked up and down pit road. Can you believe in my first NASCAR race, I spent nearly 225 of the 325 laps outside and watching from just outside the pit box? What a rush!

I have so much more respect now for the pit crews. I mean, during the first pit exchange, I was the pit crews from Michael Waltrip and Kyle Busch. These guys looked completely bored until the pit window was approaching. At that point, the guys geared up for 20 or so seconds of fun, meaning changing the tires, putting more fuel in the tank, and yes, washing the windows.

The only bad part of the day came after the race, when my colleague and I sat in traffic on I-20 for nearly two and half hours. I guess if there is one thing that the track officials need to think about, is a better way of getting motorists from one area to the next. Two and a half hours is absolutely crazy.

(Brian Howard is a sports writer for The Daily. He can be reached at: bhoward@news-daily.com )