Weekend Tailgating at the Glen
It is 11:00PM Saturday night, 300 people have randomly gathered around a kicking sound system and video screen. Music videos are playing, disco balls are spinning and a full light show is blazing. A typical nightclub you say? Well not really, this is happening in front of two RVs sandwiched in amongst thousands of other tents, cars and RVs in a huge open field. Welcome to NASCAR camping.
Anyone who has never experienced the zoo that is a NASCAR race weekend needs to.
But don’t stay in a local hotel; don’t even stay in the reserved camp sites. No, if you really want to experience all the chaos a race weekend has to offer, stay with the rowdy people in the unreserved campground. Here is a cleaned up account of how the weekend broke down.
3:00PM – Arrive at Watkins Glen, drive around the unreserved campground for awhile looking for a patch of grass to stay.
3:10PM – decided upon a piece of ground at the bottom of a steep hill on what could be the roughest stretch of ‘road’ in the camp ground. Perfect for the RX-8.
6:00PM – take the short 40 minute walk to the grandstands on the front straight away to watch the Rolex Grand-Am Series.
8:00PM – celebrate the win for car #69 Speedsource RX-8 and head back to camp.
8:35PM – arrive back at the campgrounds to see the party is already in full swing.
9:00PM – 1:00AM – During the ‘tamer’ of the two nights, things we witnessed that night are: tipped over outhouses, fireworks set off dangerously close to tents, hundreds of people wandering around the camp grounds partying, people trying to run across the top of a line of port-a-potties and failing horribly and several ‘campfires’ that in any other situation would illicit no fewer then two pumper trucks to put them out.
9:30AM – Wake up and wonder where all the extra tents and RVs came from over night. The site has now escalated from a shanty town to a shanty city. Most of the towns I passed on the way into the racetrack do not have a population this high.
10:00AM – Head out to the track to watch Nationwide Qualifying. We have great seats in turn 1 and really see the cars moving. Our favourite, Ron Fellows qualifies 5th.
12:00PM – We head out to the ‘cold pits’ and get some up close and personal pictures of the cars and drivers from both NASCAR series. The fans are literally screaming support out to their favourite drivers.
3:00PM – We head out to our seats on the front straight and watch the nationwide race. It is an exciting race and well worth the price of admission.
6:00PM – I head out to Chevrolet Motorsports Hauler to meet Ron Fellows. I am standing near the front of the line beside a highly intoxicated, yet friendly man. I make out about 1 of every 4 words he says.
6:30PM – I meet Ron Fellows, he is just as nice and approachable as I’ve heard and even remembers an email I sent him. More on him will be reported in future blogs.
7:30PM – I head back to me site. Even more people are around then this morning and the site is approaching the level of shanty metropolis.
8:00PM – 1:00AM – The nights festivities are well underway. In fact, some campers began the festivities around 9:00AM that morning. Tonight’s entertainment involves the aforementioned party at the start of this article. 300 plus people were crammed on one 20’ by 40’ campsite. Music, videos and lights were all blazing. It only lasted about 1.5 hours before the police arrived and broke it up. Other notable moments from the night included: more fireworks shot off dangerously close to my tent, a couch, a 20 foot Styrofoam block and dozens of wood set on fire, a rainstorm that slowed no one down and of course a roaming band of 200 people enjoying a mobile party.
3:00AM – We awake to severe rainstorm and the knowledge that our tent is not quite as waterproof as we had hoped. The leaking isn’t too bad though. It could be worse; we could be floating around the tent on our air mattresses.
8:00AM – We wake up a bit damp, but ready for the days race. The blue skies look promising and we predict the racing going off without a hitch. Boy are we wrong.
10:00AM – we move from our site to a general parking lot for easier exit access and closer proximately to our seats in case it rains. The race does not start for 4 hours and everyone is tailgating. We decide ‘when in Rome…’ and join them.
1:00PM – We head into our seats and get ready for the race. The prerace festivities begin.
2:00PM – minutes before the race is to begin NASCAR halts the action due to a severe weather band approaching. Figuring we could out last the storm, my dad and I hunker down ready for the worst in the grandstands.
2:15PM – Everyone (including us) are kicked out of the grandstands. Thousands of people seek refuge standing under the grandstands. Looking like geniuses from our earlier parking decision, we head out to the car to wait out the storm.
4:00PM – The race is officially postponed and we leave the track. We are sad we didn’t see this race, but happy on a whole about the whole weekend.