I’m a sucker for NASCAR. There has been a lot of talk lately that it’s not the cultural icon it used to be, but to me, it’s still a great way to spend a Sunday. It’s not football season, which means you have to fill your weekend sports with something outside the gridiron. For me, one of those options is stock car racing. People often say, “It’s just people driving in a circle,” but it’s really much more than that.
The Year I Went Behind-Scenes at NASCAR
I didn’t know much about NASCAR until 2010. I was working for someone who sponsored a car for a race at The Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. I had behind-the-scenes access, with the opportunity to spend time in the garages, meet the drivers, and stand right on pit road, like leaning over the wall as they change the tires mid-race access to pit road. It was amazing.
My friend was sponsoring Bobby Labonte, a well-mannered, reserved man. I spent time with him and his crew at “the hauler,” the giant custom semi-trailer that holds the cars and the crew’s supplies. Labonte’s crew grilled burgers, hot dogs, and other hearty foods between race events and while we were in a rain delay. I must say, NASCAR folks are the most kind and generous sports stars I’ve ever met.
The access we had was incredible and was the perfect way to get my first major exposure to the sport. It’s like being in the locker room and on the sideline for the Super Bowl, or in the dugout for the World Series. After that long weekend, I had a new appreciation for NASCAR, its people, and the excitement of 200-mile-per-hour racing.
Living the NASCAR Life
Oddly, NASCAR’s biggest race of the year, essentially their sport’s Super Bowl, is not at the end of the season, but the beginning. The Daytona 500 takes place each February at the beginning of the NASCAR season. Just a few miles from the beach in Daytona, Florida, it is a spectacle unrivaled in sports. This past weekend, although I had an army of family in town, I was able to watch most of the Daytona 500. My five-year-old son loves NASCAR. Whether it was his early exposure to Pixar’s “Cars” or just the excitement of NASCAR on TV, he is a huge racing fan.
If you’re going to watch NASCAR, you need to be prepared to spend a good chunk of your day wrapped up in the festivities. There is the “pre-game,” where the networks interview the drivers, check in on the garages where the teams are tweaking the settings on their insanely expensive and finely tuned machines, and give preview how the drivers are lined up for the race. Once the actual race begins, you’re likely to spend two to three hours glued to the tube.
Don’t let people tell you “NASCAR is just guys driving in a circle over and over and over again.” That circle is full of as many as 40 cars racing feet or even inches apart at speeds near 200 miles per hour. One unplanned twitch of the steering wheel at that speed will send cars crashing into each other, flipping, breaking apart, and putting the lives of the drivers at risk. It’s a real sport, and really dangerous.
A Beer to Get You Through the Race
For a long day of NASCAR you need a beer to get you through the ups and downs of the race. Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company in San Diego, California is just that beer. An imperial coffee stout, this is a beer that has it all. The dark, rich malts mix with the spike of the coffee and the deep chocolate notes to create a near-perfect example of a coffee stout. It will get you started before the green flag drops and keep you going long into the race.
This beer ages well. I’ve had one of these in my fridge for several months now, and it’s even better than its brother I enjoyed as soon as I purchased them. The creamy mouthfeel makes Speedway Stout an easy-to-drink beer that you can enjoy all day. The 12 percent ABV ensures that no matter how crazy the race gets, you’ll be feeling good all day long.
I’ve talked about stouts before, but their incredible variety makes it worth mentioning beers like the Speedway Stout. It is a beer best paired with grilled burgers, BBQ chicken wings, and some stinky cheese. When you’re planning on spending the day watching a NASCAR race, grab a couple bottles of Speedway Stout and some good munchies, and sit on the edge of your seat as drivers fly around a track battling to be the first to cross that finish line.