The BLOG: Culture

A behind-the-scenes look at the pageantry and power of NASCAR

If you have plans to attend a NASCAR event, buckle up for a wild ride! No matter which seat you sit in, taking in a race has the potential to blow your mind!

Let’s start with the venue. It’s more than a hot-topped track for high-performance land jets, it’s also a campground haven for tailgaters with a carnival atmosphere. The perimeter of the stadium is banked with lawn-chaired camaraderie, music and multi-generational family fun.

Before the curves, swerves and nerves many fans create a caravan city around the track to hangout, cook-out and rock-out days before the main event. The commune of high-octane devotees construct a culture of their own, where fast stories of every fashion are the passion. Arm-chaired need-for-speeders peel out twin-set racing facts of frustration and elation as quickly as pro-racing teams swap out sets of handmade, steel-wired, nitrogen-injected wheels. The tales — like the tires — fly fast and furiously.

Matt Dusenberry, of DMRacing, invited the NewBostonPost to catch a rare glimpse of race day life behind the scenes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Pre-race, off-track micromanagement of the stock car’s choreography is hyper-intense, strategic and laser-focused.

Kyle Larson's son spends some time with daddy's ride. (NBP photo by Diane Kilgore)

Kyle Larson’s son spends some time with daddy’s ride. (NBP photo by Diane Kilgore)

Ensuring absolute compliance with safety and performance regulations, before engines revvvv’ed to a 190 mph roar, garaged NASCAR vehicles underwent comprehensive inspections by sport officials. The check list of mandatory calibrations rivaled those of any professional investigation as clipboard-carrying assessors converged en masse around each colorful vehicle. Once determined ready for takeoff, the electronically mounted, horse-powered mean machines were surrounded by the driver’s crew then hand-rolled into track position.

In contrast to the drama of aero-dynamic analytics, the atmosphere surrounding the jump-suited athletes on July 17 was saturated with reverence, patriotism and cozy domesticity. Before they were harnessed into turbo-powered roll cages the drivers with their teams, owners, NASCAR officials, sports announcers and a few guests approached race-time ritual with routine.

The pace of the day included gathering in front of a podium where officials introduced participants to special guests — Senator Kelly Ayotte and Boston Bruins center Frank Vatrano — then briefed all in attendance on the business of the track. Together they sat elbow-to-elbow listening intently to rule modifications, flag codes and track conditions. The meeting concluded in a prayer that transformed the tented arena’s kinetic energy into a sanctuary by its heavenly petition for safety and peace.

As 150,000 fans settled into aluminum bleacher seats at NHMS, many thousands more tuned in to watch the 1.6-mile super-speed track race on TV. Electrifying excitement filled the stadium in advance of flag-to-flag coverage of the sport known for rushing and crushing. Behind the commotion the sport’s most elite pro-drivers took in the scene, chatted casually with their road warrior competitors and hung out with their families. The centrifugal force of the pre-ignition moment drove Kyle Larson to sit on the track and play matchbox cars with his son until it was time to put on his helmet and race with the big boys.

A palpable sense of anticipation heightened as the scene was lit, television cameras rolled and fans waited to witness the split-second reflexes and intuitions of the competitors. The theatrical performance of high-performance racing began as rock-star famous drivers grabbed their little kids then casually walked away from their chill-zone into the blazingly bright lights of the track-side stage and were formally introduced to wildly cheering crowds.

Di mingles with the NBC track crew.

Di mingles with the NBC track crew.

Fanfare gave way to pause and pageantry as military servicemen and servicewomen presented the colors and all stood to sing the national anthem and observe a moment of silence. After thunderous applause, the explosive crescendo of engineering excellence erupted. Pit crews dressed in flame-retardant gear manned their stations and the race was off. Within seconds the athletes were calculating maneuvers of high risk and reward ratios strapped inside cars which frequently reach interior temperatures up to 120 degrees with sustained elevated G-forces comparable to jets at takeoff.

At the end of the 301-lap day, Matt Kenseth finished the race first. Tony Stewart and Joey Logano found the pole in second and third positions. The only female racer of the day, Danica Patrick, finished 14th, beating out track record-holder Brad Keselowski (15th). Dad-dynamo Kyle Larson finished in 17th position.

As with all professional sports, the fans and their favorites rolled on to relive the thrills and compete again. The Brickyard at Indianapolis’ Motor Speedway hosted the next contest ,where Kyle Busch bettered Kenseth. The fun and excitement of NASCAR racing returns to Loudon on Sept. 25.

If you feel inclined to join the need-for-speeders, pack a cooler, and buckle up; it’s sure to be another unpredictably wild ride!

Contact Diane Kilgore at [email protected].