I should be in Charlotte tonight, I really should. I'm sitting here, doing laundry and the occasional half-hearted attempt at housekeeping, wishing I was there. I am watching the race on TV, but my heart's not in it. I am sad, and sadder still because I am only here because I'm being safe, being practical, counting pennies. Feeling badly that I gave into Adulthood and its responsibilities.
I have not been to a NASCAR® race all this season and it's starting to frustrate me. It must be a sign that I'm getting older or something, because I actually (and it kills me to admit this) have weighed the pros and the cons of going versus my budget. Gasoline prices what they are, and Charlotte still having the shortages they are, I made a conscious decision to not go this weekend. Even though it would be the very last time I would see Smoke (Tony Stewart) drive in the #20 car at Charlotte. Even though it would be the last time I would see Smoke and the simply wonderful Zippy (his long-time crew chief and friend) team up together for this October classic at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Even though...well, hell, even though I've not been racing yet this season. Like I could be any more selfish.
I'm sitting, here, though, writing this and hating that I was practical. Hating that I didn't throw $200 at this weekend excursion of mine (and that's hoping I can find a decent rate per gallon somewhere) and, with it, throw caution to the wind. It is not every year, or every weekend, for that matter when the chances are this good for a lively and competitive race. And while my long-time fave Mark Martin is not competitive this year, and most likely Tony and the Home Depot team won't settle their differences in time to likely be champs this their final run, there is also the camaraderie that exists between us NASCAR® fans, too. A spirit that frankly cannot be replicated at home, watching from a television set. But that is where you'll find me tonight. Finding me hoping I'll be able to go in May next year, instead...really hoping.
So, with a hardened eye at my wallet and a wary eye of the unknown, I decided to not go. The decision, sadly, was not the hardest of ones to make from a purely economical standpoint: Lowe's, despite having plenty of seats available even as late as yesterday, still did not have a fire sale to get the stands filled and instead held their ground for the inflated ticket prices (at least in any areas where you won't risk losing your hearing). Hotel and/or motel rooms still were about as high as they usually are...translation: jacked up some because it's 'race weekend'...and let's not even talk about the gas shortages in and around western North Carolina right now that's pushing fuel prices up to about the $4/gallon range (some help is on the way, though). I know economically we're all having it rough and in most likelihood it's going to get rougher, but apply some common sense NASCAR® (and vendors): sell things for a little less profit margin and get people to come out and be thankful. Or, you can do what you did with me and some others I know and make a difficult financial decision that much easier to rationalize. You help us, we help you.
I'm going to put away my wallet and all of my crib sheets that helped influence me in this decision and try and concentrate on the race instead. Damn, I wish I could be there. Damn, I wish I could try (yet again) to see Zippy at work, getting ready and then stressing and maybe even hear him give Smoke a taste of his own medicine on the radio. Damn, I can almost smell the overpriced beer and tough-as-nails 'soft' pretzels. Earlier this week during qualifying I peeked on the television and saw (approximately) the great seat I had for both races last year. Maybe I can swing the near Martinsville race, maybe that would satisfy my cravings for overblown commercialism, extremely tight jeans (both men's and women's, with both good and bad outcomes), choruses of 'hell ya' and 'JUNIOR!', and also some weird need to see my beloved boys in orange try to take it home one more time. Lord knows it's not been an easy year for me as a fan, but it's been much harder for them (or so it seems, anyway) as a team. I hate to see it end this badly...or at least see it end this badly only through the lens and spin of television.
Honestly, as I write this, I don't know where my loyalties will be next year after the Home Depot team as I've known for so long breaks apart... either supporting Tony or supporting Zippy, as supporting both doesn't look viable at present...but I'm so on the fence it's a bit worrisome right now. In a sport where fan allegiance is everything, I wonder if it's acceptable to jump ship from a fave driver to a fave crew chief?? A wild boy racer called Tony Stewart 'brought me to' Greg (Zippy) Zipadelli oh so many races ago, but it's been Zippy's actions as a man and leader that have kept me a loyal fan when Smoke's actions were unacceptable. I admit I've watched them both with equal emotion over the years, and have been proud to call them 'my' team (although Smoke has not made that easy at times). It weighs on me that a Championship appears nearly out of reach already. I'm heartsick at the prospect of this dynamic duo going their separate ways, and it's not even next year yet.
Nor is it the end of this race, but it is the commercial break. Maybe if I find something else I can flip back and forth with on the telly, I won't be this 'racesick' as the night rolls on...