We had the great fun of being at Texas Motor Speedway for Jeff Gordon’s Last Rodeo…his final race at TMS before retiring this year. And what an event! TMS had signs everywhere honoring Gordon, who had won the previous week and was the ONLY one assured of being in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Homestead Miami Speedway November 22. He seemed to be playing it safe on the Texas track, not really pushing to win but keeping near the 8th position throughout the race, so he could be in control and avoid any mishaps on the track. He pitted often for tire changes since, due to the heavy rain the day before, the track did not have its normal friction.
At Texas Motor Speedway fans cheered as he was the last driver in the introductory parade around the track before the Green flagstarted the race. TMS even had 24 colorful sky-divers land in the center field with the final one carrying Gordon’s 24, and the crowd went wild! It was so exciting.
We have been to this Speedway often before, and Bill even did the Richard Petty Driver Experience there as a driver in a real race car and averaged 154 miles per hour, which he says was the biggest thrill experience of his life! But here this time we had another great thrill: We had TMS HOT PIT and GARAGE passes, which we highly recommend as worth
the extra money! We were able to walk throughout the garage area and around the pits before the race while all the crews are working and testing and tweaking each of the cars. What a busy place. You can feel the nervous energy, and many fans are there, usually at the garage of their favorite drivers. Jeff Gordon’s garage area was always crowded.
We love the excitement on Pit Row before the race, when each of the cars is pushed manually by the driver’s’ crew, into their respective starting positions on the track. The pit crew is checking every instrument in their pits and lining up each item in a specific place so the driver’s stop during the race is extreme minimum. The driver’s camera people are in a little room at the top of their pit with microphones to talk to the driver and direct his or her adjustments during the race and to be extra “eyes” for the driver.
But our favorite new experience at Texas Motor Speedway this time was to use our Hot Pit passes to stand at Gordon’s pit and watch the frenetic
activity when Gordon pitted each time for his new tires, gasoline, etc. The dedication and speed of the crew is unbelievable! It seemed that the stops were less than a minute, although we were not looking at our watches. Then to watch the crew calm down and inspect each used tire minutely to assess how to improve the driver’s speed was so interesting. They returned each instrument to its exact spot so the next pit time would be even better. For us this was a highlight experience and we ventured to watch other drivers’ pits as they came in for assistance also. What a thrill! It made us feel like we were a part of the race itself.
Throughout our time at the track we had the opportunity to talk to many avid fans and ask a few questions:
Q: You’ve been to Texas Motor Speedway several times; what impresses you most about this track?
A: How well organized and prepared all the workers at TMS are in dealing with the traffic, crowds, and safety. Also, the helpfulness of all the TMS employees in directing and assisting anyone asking questions or needing help. The TMS workers in all capacities are thoroughly knowledgeable and extremely courteous.
Q: How do you compare this track with others?
A: It is easy at Texas Motor Speedway to get around from the infield to the grandstand. Our seats were about mid-way up the stands and we could see the cars all the way around the track and be able track the cars you were interested in. And the gigantic TV screen shows us the important minute-to-minute close-ups! It’s great, and the grandstand seats are comfortable. We also like the fact that the stands are facing East, so the sun in our eyes is never a problem
Q: How do you think the unexpected rain in Dallas the day before affected the driver’s approach to the race?
A: The track was “green” (which means no rubber was laid down due to the rain) at the start of the race and that necessitated many pit stops and greater tire management and adjustments to the cars. Early in the race several cars had tires going down and bringing out yellow flag cautions. But the track was diligently groomed by the TMS people and by NASCAR and there were no major accidents.
Q: What do you think are the principle contributions of NASCAR to the present day manufacture of our passenger cars?
A: Two major improvements to passenger cars have been in the area of safety and engine reliability. Also, in those areas we all benefit from improvement in brakes and fuel mileage of passenger cars, since NASCAR races are basically test drives at their harshest for the types of cars people drive every day.
Q: Do you plan to attend other races at Texas Motor Speedway?
A: Absolutely! It is perhaps my favorite race track, and I have to fly in from up North. The people here are so nice and friendly. And Dallas and Fort Worth areas are great cities to visit and do other fun stuff while we are here. The airport is close to the track and we never lack for a good place to stay, great restaurants, and other fun entertainment.
About the Author:
Bonnie Neely, a professional journalist for over 30 years, has worked extensively in educational television in which she has been project coordinator, researcher, and scriptwriter. She has also been a columnist for various newspapers and magazines as well as a producer/scriptwriter for the Discovery Channel. Furthermore Bonnie is one of the “Top Book Reviewers” for Amazon.com. She founded Real Travel Adventures and built it into a leading travel blog.