Bud was a big NASCAR fan. What if I could get tickets for a race? But which one? What was within driving distance? (This was before the Kansas Speedway was built.) There was a track in the Irish Hills of Southern Michigan near the town of Brooklyn. I had known about the Irish Hills for many years and always wanted to go there.....so that was decided, the Michigan International Speedway it would be. There were two races to choose from, one in June, the other in August. The GM Goodwrench Dealer 400 on August 20 was exactly three months before his birthday.
Twenty years ago NASCAR was extremely popular; most races were sold out. When I called about tickets the only seats available were ones inside the track, behind the pit stalls. I ordered the tickets. Then it was a matter of keeping my secret until the first part of August when I told Bud to ask for several vacation days off from work because he was going to get his 50th birthday surprise a little early.
If I remember right by this time Bud had guessed his surprise.
I remember going through Kalamazoo because my brother Ron's company had sent him there to work for a few weeks that year. And Battle Creek was interesting because of the Kellogg's cereal company history. We drove on to Jackson before finding a hotel for the night. It was a good sign when we saw the # 5 Kellogg's car hauler in the parking lot. When I said we wanted the room for two nights, though, there was a problem. They were totally booked for Saturday night.
Saturday we had to head south into Indiana before finding a room for that night. The next morning we got up early and headed toward Brooklyn. There was a lot of traffic going the same way but once we turned east onto Highway 20, the traffic was more like a parking lot. It was stop and go and wait on the two lane highway all the way to the speedway. There weren't any towns to make a 'pit' stop in. I wasn't the only one to finally give up finding a bathroom and heading into a corn field!
We began to despair of getting to the race track in time to see the start, but we made it, crossed under the start - finish line through the pedestrian tunnel and discovered our seats were directly behind Dale Earnhardt's pit stall.
|Car # 3 crew before start of race|
|Cars leaving pit row at start of race|
|Coming down in front of grandstand to take the green flag|
|The Intimidator aka The Man in Black|
|After the race, Bud wondering, "Where did I park my car?"|
The winner of the race that day was Bobby Labonte. Earnhardt lost the 1995 season championship to Jeff Gordon by 34 points.
Attending a NASCAR race in person was an experience, one I'm glad I had but don't care to repeat and I think Bud feels the same way. We both would rather watch the races on TV in our own living room. Not only is it more comfortable but you really do get to see more of the race.