Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Fairgrounds 500

If you live in or near Oklahoma City you know what this city excels at – tearing things down. You may have been around back in the 70s when a program called Urban Renewal ripped and tore its way through downtown OKC, replacing beautiful architecture with parking lots. Reference the old Biltmore Hotel.

I remember when I was a kid and dad told me, “Son, they’re gonna build a highway across downtown Oklahoma City that’s up in the air…on stilts.” “No way, dad!” But they did. It’s called Interstate 40. But it won’t be for much longer. We’re poised to tear it down soon.

But the next domino to fall is the State Fairgrounds Speedway. Now, I will confess it’s been years since I’ve visited the speedway. In fact, I can only recall attending one or two events there in my life. When I was about 12 dad took me to a Mustang Precision Driving event. It was so cool to see those Mustangs jump over each other and weave between one another at high speeds, barely avoiding catastrophe. It was entirely awesome.

What I remember most are the clowns. Now those guys could drive! Until one of the little clown cars broke down. The clown got out and raised the hood - and called out his findings to the announcer, who repeated them to the crowd. “The generator won’t gen… the carburetor won’t carb … the pistons won’t - WAIT A MINUTE! This is a family show.” The crowd roared in laughter - probably because they were starved for entertainment. I laughed too, after dad explained it to me.

This is the point where I confess that if the speedway was not being torn down, I still wouldn't be a patron. I just don’t enjoy it that much. Oh, I realize auto racing, and specifically NASCAR, is one of the most popular sports in America. It's just not one of my favorites. A guy waves a flag and then a few dozen cars drive around in circles for several hours. The one that doesn’t have a wreck or run out of gas wins a trophy and a bunch of money… and a kiss from a pretty girl - if his wife isn’t watching. Then they load up their cars into trucks and drive to the next state to do it all again.

There are a couple of things I’ve always wondered about with NASCAR. First, why do they put a perfectly good car inside a truck to haul it to the next race? Hey, it’s a car! You can drive it to the next race! Save some money.

The second question I have is – can I drive in your race? If you knew what my rush-hour commute is like you guys would be jealous of me. I weave back and forth, jockeying with other cars for the lead. I don’t run out of gas and I haven’t wrecked yet. All I need is a pretty girl standing in my driveway with a trophy and a check every day. My wife’s a pretty girl. How about it honey?

Didn't think so!

And so we say goodbye to OKC’s only racetrack. Well… I should say OKC’s only “legal” racetrack. We can still race our cars across I-40… for a few more weeks anyway.

Hey, at least we have plenty of places to park!

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