I recently went to the Busch Race at NHIS (June 30) and while I was at the track it got me thinking…
Ladies and Gentlemen – Start your ENGINES!!
Ok, it’s no secret to the people that know me – I’m a big NASCAR fan. I’ve been following it for ten years. Initially a huge Dale Earnhardt fan (bordering fanatical), I’ve grown into more of a general fan of the entire sport, rather than a fan of one driver. I do have a couple favorites, but it’s usually people who don’t seem to do too much these days. I dig people like Kyle Petty, Kenny Schrader, Jarrett and Waltrip. Oh, and Tony Stewart, Junior, Truex, and… oh hell, it’s easier to point out the drivers I don’t care for, though admittedly there aren’t many (*coughs* – Kurt Bush).
So, needless to say, I get very excited when NASCAR comes to Loudon New Hampshire for a race at New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS). If you have never been to a NASCAR race, it’s hard to convey just how big the party really is. There are people that will set up five days in advance and just party at the track until the main event on Sunday (The Nextel Cup race!). I’ve been to that main event many times, and it can get pretty crazy. NASCAR fans are a very kind, but rowdy bunch. I love going to the track.
The party aside, it’s not easy to explain what it feels like to experience 43 cars going past you, five feet away, 10 inches from each other, doing 150mph+! It will literally take your breath away. It’s loud, fast, and very competitive with hours of edge-of-your-seat bumping and racing. What else could you possible want? Well, add a day of grilling, cold beers, and tailgating leading up to the race, and you have created just about the perfect day.
The Nextel Cup race is incredible, but unless you fly to the track in a helicopter and have air-conditioned box seats its not completely perfect. As I mentioned, it gets a little out of control. With upwards of 160,000 people at the track, the traffic is CRAZY bad, the grandstands are sold out, and you usually have no choice but to sit in your seats and bask in the sweltering sun for five or so hours. I’ve seen countless people being carried out from sunstroke.
Here’s the deal; not many people realize that there is another NASCAR series that tours with the Nextel Cup cars – The Busch Series. While the Nextel Cup races on Sunday in the main event, the Busch guys usually run on the same track the Saturday before. Think of the Busch series as the minor league, and the Nextel Cup as the majors.
You don’t have to be a NASCAR fan to be familiar with most of the drivers. Names like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Junior have become as common as Tiger Woods, or Joe Namath. But these are all drivers in the Nextel Cup, not the Busch Series right? Well… not exactly.
Many of the biggest names in NASCAR Nextel Cup also compete in the Busch race, in fact some actually own Busch teams. When people hear the Name Tony Stewart for example, they associate him with the Nextel Cup orange #20 Home Depot car, but don’t realize that he also often drives a maroon #33 Old Spice car in the Busch Series. Other Nextel cup drivers that you can see in the Busch Race include Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, and well… about fifteen more. You get the idea, you don’t need to see the Sunday Nextel Cup race to watch many of the big-dogs race.
I say “big-dogs” for a couple of reasons. One, these Nextel Cup drivers get more of the media spotlight, and two, there are some technical differences between the two series. The Nextel Cup cars are heavier and more powerful than the Busch guys. But trust me, you will never know the difference on a track like NHIS. Both series freeking haul ass and put on a great show!
Now here’s the point I am trying to get to;
Busch Race is general admission, so you can sit where you want, and it is something like 1/3 the price of the Nextel Cup race!
Oh wait, it gets better… On Sunday, the Nextel race day, you only get one event – The Nextel Cup Race. On the Saturday before hand, you get the Busch race, around two and a half hours of Nextel Cup practice, and often times you get a more “local” event, like the Super-Modified race I saw at Loudon this year.
You get more racing on Saturday than on Sunday. You get to see the Nextel Cup cars on the track during practice, other local racing, and the Busch race – which as I mentioned above includes many of the Nextel Cup guys. You get all this with no traffic and for much less money. It really is the best day to go to the races.
Don’t get me wrong, the Nextel Cup cars are insane to watch, and I recommend seeing them at least once or twice. But, that said, if you just want to experience a great all-day of racing – The Saturday Busch race is CLEARLY the way to go.