Sep 7, 2012

Ponoco 400

Cloudy skies threatened the entire weekend

The most awesome thing about travelling without an agenda or a plan (other than to get back to Canada sometime) is that you randomly run across awesome things. Two awesome's in one sentence? You was...awesome! ;)

  Initially I ran across the Pocono on saturday morning after leaving Strousburg with my new muffler on. The sign said "Detour here unless going to the race". I like racing so I promptly skipped the detour and headed towards the Pocono International Raceway. On the way though...I was getting pretty high off a righteous smell of gas that was filling the cab up with increasing intensity. I knew that there was something wrong but initially (probably because I was so in the clouds from the fumes) but i decided to wait till I got to the track before checking it out.

 Well when I pulled up the young kid took about 5 steps back and when I asked him if it was gassy...he nodded in agreement but then said "Yeah a little bit". Honestly all I could smell was gas so I pulled over and voila...the fuel pump was pouring gas out of the upper seem...I mean pouring.

 Obviously your engine is a heat source and gas is a flammable liquid...I decided to turn the van off for a few minutes to let it cool down while I decided what to do. will happen...a guy pulled up and told me about this place called Jimmy's just down the road. I didn't want to suffer the (totally personal and not real embarrassment) of having a tow truck pull up in the throng of thousands of cars to tow me I decided to take the risk and drive to Jimmy's Auto.

 When I got there though....Jimmy's was closing and they had told the guy on the phone that but he failed to relay that critical piece of info to me. So I spoke to them, made an appt for monday and with their caution of "don't drive too far" I thought I was going to park the van at the local grocery store and ride my bike down to the race.

 Well...I never left their driveway. As the saying shit the bed right on the edge of the highway. The beautiful thing was that it didn't take but one second for four of them to come running out to push it back to the shop. A phone call was made to locate a pump, it was delivered within 15min and a great guy named Steve installed it after shop hours while I bombarded him with endless mechanical and race oriented questions. He was a cool guy, single dad, used to race demolition derbies and now his daughters have decided to carry that torch forward (at age 16) so he couldn't be happier that they have followed his footsteps. 20min later I was wishing I had of just done it myself because it was ridiculously easy...but the best part was that I was done with it and ready to hit the race...but what? dang...ding dang *&^% the race was over for the day (ticket sales) by the time I got there.

 So I could have sat in the lot with 4000 drunken NASCAR fans waiting for the 4am gate opening to get a good spot on turn 1...or I could have gone to find a quiet place to sleep and make it back to the race at a reasonable time...I chose the latter and headed to the nearest mechanics shop to bed down for the night.

 Woke up at 5, headed to the race for 6:30. Got my spot in the infield, took a 4hr nap...woke up and wandered the madness, took the bus to the fan zone, took in as much of the track as I could on an infield visit anywhere else (like even the grandstands) would have cost another $40, to visit pit row would have cost $ I was fine with the infield as it stood...and as it stood there was PLENTY of people watching to do in the infield and I am as some readers know... a serious people watcher!!
That's NASCAR for you
This guy with the beer on his head...and yes that keg is what greeted me at the know the rest of the day will be filled with bewildering smiles!
Shot from the bleachers
The race itself was was cut sort by rain and interrupted once. The rain was deadly...lightening flashing, heavy thunder and EZ gazebo's flying everywhere. They brought out the track dryers, dried it out and within a few minutes they were back racing...however on lap 98 they called it quits. With rain pouring down so hard that rivers had appeared in the infield the size of small streams and peoples tents and such that were at the bottom of the hill being washed thoroughly by mother nature (maybe trying to wash NASCAR from it's surface) was all over.

 The next day when I was washing my clothes at the laundromat I got to speak with the semi-truck driver from #17 and when I said it was all in all a good afternoon he replied, "well it would have been better if someone hadn't died" and I was stunned...then I realized what he was talking about.

 At about lap 92 there was a lightening strike so close and so loud that it was a certainty that it struck somewhere very close. I had assumed the grandstand as it is a massive metal structure in the middle of an open field...but no. Some poor person was struck in there tent and died on the scene and 10 others were injured. So that marred the day and left a heavy cloud over the NASCAR folks. It was tragic and my thoughts go out to the family.

Everyone is flying flags...
After the race (and before talking with the driver I mentioned above) I was getting conflicting info on whether or not you could camp in the infield over night. I was watching other RV's, talking to some of the owners and they all gave a different answer. So I finally went to the security desk to ask and at that time she gave a cryptic warning "If the weather get's bad you get to shelter". Well the truth's a great big open field and all the buildings are locked up outside of the bathrooms...there really is/was no where to go if indeed the wrath of zeus decided to strike the field.

 But after surviving a fire a little lightening didn't deter me at all from having a great time. Now other people do NASCAR in their own way...usually drunk as skunks and partying hard. In fact when I climbed into the Chariot to get some shut eye at 12am...the rv beside me had people standing on it partying away (WAY too many people for  what that RV roof should handle) and when I opened my eyes at 6:30...they were still on there partying hard!
And they did!

This guy was dressed up like Earnhart yelling and screaming in order to disrupt or enhance (not sure) the live Speed broadcast that was going on

An old classic

Picture of the track while riding the shuttle bus

Victory lane

People gathered on pit lane

More pit lane

more pit lane

wth...more pit lane! :)

The army is a big draw for kids at any NASCAR event...but at this time no one was caring about the army equipment they had on display :)

The Fan zone...

Can't thank Jimmy's enough for doing an on the spot after hours replacement of my fuel pump which was pouring gas out everywhere as I pulled up to the gate. If I thought being doused with exhaust made my head the time I pulled over I was high as a kite thanks to the wonders of gasoline!!

rained like hell and they brought out these wicked jet engine track dryers

Infield...1 day, race day!
 The cool thing about Pocono is that out of all the NASCAR tracks it only has 3 turns instead of 4. They call it the tricky I was happy that my impromptu visit of NASCAR was a visit to one of the "different" tracks. 
All sorts of drying equipment was used


Serious fans!

People came with everything and their kitchen sinks! Some of these motorhomes were massive!!

victims of the previous nights party

Another victim....I think that chiro appointments go up 100 fold after a NASCAR event

Yep...that pretty much says it all for about 90% of the infield

Lap 92 and the threat of rain was upon us!

This character was a wild thing to witness...I have no idea who she was cheering for but she was freaking out clenching her smoke between her teeth (easily one of the grossest things..period) and hooting and hollering!

Nights end...rain over. You were allowed to camp out in the infield until 11 or so the next was cool as everyone was partying until dawn and again at sunrise! Actually when I went to bed a camper across from me was loaded with people on it's roof partying hard...when I woke up at 7:30...people were still on the roof partying hard!

For some reason I was all alone...and loving it!

This rig was wicked and the picture below shows it's matching golf cart

And that's my first ever NASCAR event!! ;)
 So I watched the fans leave and no wanting to use more gas than necessary I waited until there was no line up at the exit gate. Why do people do that? The line up of cars stretched for as far as the eye can see and they sat there acting like it was New York and they had somewhere to go in a hurry for what seemed to be hours on end.

 Eventually there was just a handful left (yes the people were still on their roof) and I fired up the beast...let it warm up and headed for the Delaware Water Gap and the national park!! Vroom I go....

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