I’ve been in a lot of paddocks over my 22 years but by far the most alien came at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a place that not only is my home track but that felt comfortable the weekend before. Imagine if you will, drinking 2% milk your whole life. Every morning with cereal, every night as hot chocolate. You always know that whole milk is out there; it’s just not your preference. And as a self-proclaimed milk aficionado, you can’t understand why some people drink whole milk instead of 2%. But one day, you’re forced out of that comfort zone. You’re told to drink whole milk just for a weekend, just to see what it’s like. Naturally, you’re going to over-exaggerate the effects and make the two seem like polar opposites even though they are both still milk in the end. For the grand finale, when you’re back to your 2%, you’ll appreciate it more than ever because it is familiar, more comfortable, and your preference. Now, I haven’t just spent a paragraph talking about milk. No, because for people who don’t know racing at all, this is the perfect metaphor for my feelings about racing. My dad tried to persuade me to use skiing, water versus snow. But to a Miami girl, what good is that? What’s familiar to me is sports cars. I’ve spent more time recently in paddocks of the American Le Mans Series, which bears a slogan of “For the Fans”. Never more have I appreciated this than after spending time in the paddock of NASCAR’s 3 main series. The ALMS paddock is an inviting place. Drivers walk around, not with scowls in anticipation of the next thing to sign, but with smiles. When a fan walks up to most drivers, they are greeted with conversation and genuine interest in what the fan has to say. It isn’t a hassle; it’s a pleasure. When working on the cars, the mechanics may put up a chain but they’re always available to tell you what’s happening with the car and what they’re working on. Most tracks allow the fans to roam in the paddock and even on the starting grid, where they can have their pictures taken with the cars or drivers without having to spend money on additional passes. The teams are families, eating together in tents such as Marion’s, and often stay in the same hotels as one another. The same cannot be said for NASCAR.
|A typical ALMS paddock garage. Noticed how close I am to the body panels,|
and how many mechanics are working around the cars. They stop to explain to
any fan willing to listen.
|The NATIONWIDE garage during practice. This was as close as I was permitted.|
No one would talk to me.
|My favorite stock-car because of the red M&M. He mirrored|