We left at 6:30 AM not knowing what to expect. Seriously, my husband and I are literally leaving pre-dawn, to get Kolaches and then drive 2 hours to meet a man whose Twitter Tag is @SloppyYellow but his friends call him ‘Dado.’ As we pull out the driveway, Todd asks, “OK, you ready to do this?” I yawn out, “Yep” and we are on our way. Perhaps, I should give you some backstory. I will try to give you the short version but those who know me know, with me, there are no short versions.
You see, for Christmas, I bought my husband a video game. And while I am glad he got a new hobby, I didn’t realize it meant I had to find one too. So, this particular Friday night, I found myself on Periscope for the first time. I watched a concert, a guy playing show tunes and some lady’s kid at their Karate tournament. And then something odd happened. There was a guy in that was giving a tour of the NASCAR at the Daytona Speedway. Having lived in Florida, I have passed that thing a million times. I even went in once for a charity event but never to see a race. From his phone, I got the coolest look into NASCAR. There were trucks going up dirt piles, people yelling having a good time and he gave me a play by play of everything going on. And even though he was very descriptive, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. But I want to.
So I became a new nascar fan. I started reading everything that I can get my hands on about NASCAR, which, oddly enough, wasn’t that much. Well not much more than people talking about tires, if it was a good race or not and who they loved or hated. But I was going to be ready, I popped some popcorn, grabbed a Corona my phone, so I could follow people tweeting about NASCAR, my laptop, so I could watch Fox Sports Go, and I had the TV on. My husband though I had lost my mind. Never in my life had I watched a NASCAR event, on TV or otherwise. And yet, on this day, I decide to immerse myself with as much NASCAR as I can find. “Jackye, what in the hell are you doing?” “One year,” I say. “Give me one year, and I will be a NASCAR expert.” “Oh..kaayyyy…” he says with a wink. He has heard me make such declarations before and he knows I mean it.
So there I am. I decide I am going to support Danica Patrick because she is a woman and she is the only driver I can name so, “GO DANICA!!!” But first things first. I learn that Daytona 500 means they drive 500 miles and that Daytona is the Super Bowl of racing. I find out Danica drives a Ford and is having trouble with sponsors. I learn about the stages and how some fans hate them. And basically, that is it. Some guy named Kurt Busch wins, and there is a conspiracy theory because a Monster driver wins the first Monster race. Oh, I also learn that people are up in arms about how scantily dressed the Monster girls are. Really? That is it? There has to be something more.
I get set up to watch the next race. “GO DANICA! Wait, where’s Danica !?!” Okay, I will publicly root for Danica, but I am not sure she is any good. And I watch the next race. Holy shit there is a fight. This is getting exciting. Am I the only one that I know who is into this stuff? I should probably tell you now that as a Texan, it wouldn’t be that odd to be a NASCAR fan. As a refined black woman, (in a lovely shade of brown I might add) this is not normal. I go to Facebook and as my friends, “Do any of you watch NASCAR?” Here are some of the responses:
“Turn left and then turn left again!!..No.”
“Nah. Zero interest. I might not throw like Brady, or score like Mia, but I can turn left.”
“Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks….no thanks.”
I won’t bore you with the other 18 responses, but with few exceptions, they all were variations of no. Well shit. How am I going to learn about this thing? Next week, think I will go to Periscope.
So I am on Twitter, and it leads me to Periscope again, watching some girl sing covers of Rhianna, some chic cooking dinner and a guy writing calligraphy. Finally, I find a chat by someone named @SloppyYellow going on called, “RantScope, let’s get this over with already.” Nice. There is this crabby white guy, Texas accent, a Nationwide hat on, and an American flag in the background. I am not sure I should go in there, but, I hope that I can just sneak in there, listen and learn without anyone noticing. Remember, I am not only new to NASCAR, I am new to Periscope as well. So I join this thing 17 minutes in.
“I don’t know who you are…” Mr. Sloppy says. Oh shit. I really hope he isn’t talking to me. I mean my name is @jackyeclayton. I am a real person with a picture you know, the non-threatening type. Maybe I should let him know who I am. For now, I am going to listen. So far, I have no idea what he is talking about. Oh, he starts talking about stages, finally, something I know about. I try to connect. “ I was going to ask…” to which Mr. Sloppy says, “I think I need to block this person.” Me!?! Nooooooo! Maybe it isn’t me. Please don’t be me! Phew, he moves on talking about Martinsville and some bus. Back to listening, but I really have a question! I’ll wait.
Mr. Sloppy starts talking about Texas, something I REALLY know something about. Wait, did I hear that right? He is going to Austin. I try to connect again. “Stop by Waco!” I type. See Mr. Yellow, I am a nice person! He says, he is going to stop by Czech Stop in West, Texas to get Kolaches. Yes! We connected! Some other guy named Beast went to Baylor. Yay, maybe I met a friend. I tell jokingly he can drive my RV to Tennessee. “I don’t want to drive your RV Jackye, good grief I don’t even know you!” Ooops, I did it again. But I am just excited to have met people who like NASCAR. I’ll be quiet. Well, I will try.
He says, “Jackye, let me look at your profile is that your picture? Do you live in Waco?” Are you going to the race? In Fort Worth? Send me an email, SloppyYellow@ …com and let’s talk about it. Jackye thanks for coming in.” OMG, what does this mean? I send him an email, he sends his number and writes, “Hi. My name is Dan. People call me Dado, like Dad-o. I am going to try to get you to Texas Motor Speedway.” OK, I am dying. We chat on the phone, I learn that SloppyYellow is a bus. Oh and lo and behold, he has tickets for me and my husband to go to TMS.
Flash forward to where we left off…
Todd asks, “OK, you ready to do this?” I yawn out, “Yep” and we are on our way. Of course, I stop by the Czech Stop to buy Kolaches and start on the 2-hour drive. Another one of his fans and I start talking on Twitter, “Are you coming?” “Yes!” I say, “I am almost there.” We go over the hill and there it is. Well holy shit, we are here. Of course, I have no idea where I am going. It is 8:30 AM.
I try to get Dado on the phone but based on the 2:00 AM scope, I am afraid he isn’t going to show up. We have no idea where we are going. We ask where the infield is. We ask where will call is. Keep in mind I have no idea if our tickets are even at will call but we are headed that way. And it is like, I shit you not, half a mile away. And I am trucking over there and I am getting nervous. You know when you go to the state fair and all of these people are trying to get you to play their games? It was kinda like that. Watch this! Enter to Win! I’ll give you two chances! Oh my, this looks like a freak show.
My phone rings and it is Dado, only it is not Dado. A woman’s voice says, “Jackye this is Christy on Dado’s phone hurry to the tweet up they are giving away Danica Patrick bobble heads!” And of course, they were standing right where I just was, half a mile away. So we tackle this girl on a golf cart and get her to take us just as fast as she can to the Tweet-up. By now, I am pumped.
“HHHIIIIIIII EVERYONE I AM JACKYE CLAYTON I BROUGHT KOLACHES!!!” Everyone was staring at me. I think I broke Tweet-up protocol but I see Dado in the corner of my eye and quickly offer a hug and a Kolache. He is with Johnne Hayes, they guy he talks about so much on UnDamnRestricted. But wait, is that Jeff Gluck from JeffGluck.com? It is and Dado introduces me to him. I read that guy. (gasp) Is that Bob Pockrass from ESPN? SHUT THE FRONT DOOR because it is! We shake hands and talk a bit. And I am trying all I can do to stay cool. Some people from Fox 1 want to follow us and record the experience. I am going to try to play it cool. Yeah, I totally failed at that. And there was my husband trying to take a picture so we can remember every moment.
At the Tweet-up, they offer everyone there a drivers meeting pass. “What’s a drivers meeting?” Dado explains, “It is where all the drivers go before the race. I have never been to one before! This is a big deal.” Holy smokes. Again, I tell myself, to be cool as I slip on into the drivers meeting like I own the joint with my new #NASCARBFF, Christy. We are looking around in awe, both shocked that we were able to get into the drivers meeting. My husband is taking pictures of everything and I mean everything. We learn where the drivers will be coming in from. Christy and Todd get into prime fan position so they can be a part of all the action. And here they come.
We don’t know who any of these people are so Todd begins taking those pictures again of everyone who comes in. And there is everyone’s favorite driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Christy is freaking out and tries to get him to sign her neighbor’s die cast car and some piece of trash she gets out of her purse. Dale JR. opts not to sign the trash but does generously signs the car. They are all coming in for their meeting and we are a part of it. They start by introducing dignitaries and give special recognition to those serving in the Armed Forces.
And it is time for the meeting to start. We watch this video that explains all the rules in NASCAR and things to pay attention to at Texas Motor Speedway. We learn about the rules of NASCAR including overtime rules, caution rules, and the drivers are reminded about safety. I learned more in this five-minute video about NASCAR then I had in all of my hours of research. And
then we say a prayer and the reality sets in. I am lucky to be here. I am lucky to be in the greatest country in the world and I am extremely blessed. And that was when the waterworks started. I was balling like a baby.
Next stop is pit road. And the first thing that I notice was not the stadium, not the boxes where the teams sit not even the cars. “Oh my gosh, that is the same smiley face I see on TV!” I was so tickled! In case you were wondering, it looks exactly the same in person. Next, we are looking at the cars and the pit boxes up close. We can literally touch the cars. As I got closer I noticed something very odd. Guess what. Those cars don’t have lights on them, they have stickers! They don’t have grills or brake lights either. No wonder they run into each other! Next, I saw them push Martin Truex jr’s car onto the track. I am not sure why they push them on. Something about gas maybe? Remember, I am still learning.
Next, we were on our way to go to the infield and meet back up with Dado and his JR Nation crew and of course get to meet the school bus, Sloppy Yellow. It is a legit school bus with some minor modifications. Minor meaning bunk beds, a working sink, a toilet, and couches. Freaking amazing! It was a beautiful day. The bus was parked directly next to the fence on the third turn Next I risked my life by climbing this sketchy ladder to get on top of SloppyYellow. I was amazed as to how close we were to the track. It was just a stone’s throw away. Like if a car got in a wreck on that third turn, we would have to duck to get away from the parts.
And we are praying again. This time I hold myself together until the fly over. There were Four U.S. Air Force F-15’s.
(Turn the volume down – it is a WINDY day and you can hear it!)
Next they do this horse and pony show around the track. I am not attached to any driver so I decide that the ones that don’t yell back when we cheer them are off the list. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, and Austin Dillion did not make the cut.
On top of this bus is a big metal rectangle for people to get the best view of the race complete with its own bench. The front corner is known as the best place to watch the race, and if there is a newbie, it is their spot.
— Christy Clark (@txgrl884ever) April 11, 2017
The cars started from across the field, and they were off. Holy eardrums Batman! That was loud. And I am the dork who left her earplugs in the car.
What was cool though was all of the people there that were excited for me and my first race. People offered their headphones so I could listen to what pit crews on the scanners. (Some got quite colorful!) Everyone was willing to answer questions. Johnnie Hayes even let me use his FanVision machine thingy! If you have never seen a race in person, you cannot possibly understand how fast these racers are going. If you watched straight on, you couldn’t even make out the shape of the car. There is the huge rush every time a car goes by that you just will not be able to have other than the race track.
I walked probably 10 miles and gained like 5 pounds. The tailgating was unbelievable. We ate like kings! Dado offered pulled pork, brisket, tamales and this thing called a bacon bomb. We also ate this Oreo fluff thing that knocked my socks off. It was unbelievable to see how many people just swung by to say hi. Even someone in a dinosaur suit! Random, but funny.
It was a great race. Non-Smiling Jimmie Johnson won. Met great people. Overall I have to say it was one of my top 10 life experiences. I think I am starting to get it. I am just so happy to have a team of JR. Nation people who have taken me under their wing and helped me learn. Will I go to another race? Absolutely! In fact, I won four tickets to go to Talladega! I am proud to be a new NASCAR fan! Look for me at the races!