Yesterday I arrived in Richmond, Va., coughing and spluttering due to a severe head cold but looking forward to something a bit different. Normally, I cover issues like AIDS, malaria, and street children for the magazine, so NASCAR is rather unusual. At this weekend’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 event, part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Furniture Row has generously agreed to wrap their car in World Vision colors—a great way to raise World Vision’s profile among NASCAR fans.
I’m feeling slightly out of my depth. Formerly, my knowledge of motor racing could probably be written down on the back of a postage stamp. To prep myself, I read up on the rather good brief on NASCAR on Wikipedia and watched the film “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.” Depending who you speak to, this is either an absurd caricature or actually a rather good picture of the NASCAR scene. After ambling over to the track—Richmond International Raceway—and meeting a number of unfailingly polite officials (politeness is not a keynote of the film), I’m picking caricature.
My prep is further helped by racing enthusiast and World Vision volunteer Wayne Forsythe who helps me into a replica of the car Regan Smith (2008 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year) will be driving.
The first shock that is the door does not open, and I have to make my entry through the driver’s window, first removing the steering wheel to squeeze myself in. The seat is tiny. Regan must be a slim fellow, I think.
Once I do manage to get in, it feels about as comfortable as a strait jacket. The thought of trying to get out of this cage in a hurry makes you cringe. Reassuringly, there are two large fire extinguishers bolted to the floor where the passenger seat should be. Everything else is bare and strictly utilitarian. The dash has been replaced with a bit of aluminum sheet with some basic toggle switches.
One big question remains: Will Regan qualify for the big race on Saturday? It’s a short track, which will suit both Regan and the car. I look forward to being on the track tonight at the qualifiers to find out.