2015 Ultimate 4 tour Blog
Follow the tour adventures from Knoxville to Bristol to Memphis to Kokomo and finally to Indianapolis for the 2015 NHRA Drags on our Ultimate 4 tour.
For details of the first six days of our tour, please refer to Days 30 – 34 of the 2015 Month of Money Blog.
Day 7 – Monday 17th August
Along with our fellow Month of Money friends who were leaving after the end of their tour, we departed from Des Moines Airport bound for Indianapolis after a great Mexican farewell dinner in Pella. The “around the table” tour highlights memories provided for some great fun with an amazing range of comments and although our Ultimate 3 group was not there to see it, undoubtedly Trevor’s trip down the hill and rescue was voted the most hilarious.
We arrived in Indy and proceeded to pick up our vehicle and head to the hotel and after phones were sorted we renewed our acquaintance with the Bourbon Street Distillery right across the road. The very attractive waitress was extremely efficient as she took the orders and organised separate cheques for all whilst sitting on Richard’s lap. The $1 Beer special of Miller Light was consumed in reasonable quantity by the weary travellers before heading off for a reasonably early night.
Day 8 – Tuesday 18th August
An 8.30am departure for Louisville in Kentucky was agreed upon, but first we had to get to a Wal-Mart for the first of our essential supplies. After about two and a half hours we were parked at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. I think most were a little hesitant about going to a horse racing track on a speedway trip but after a relatively inexpensive $9 tour, one could not help but be impressed with this amazing venue that is so steeped in history.
Our accommodation is downtown at the Galt House. What a joint as they say!! Sitting right on the waterfront on both sides of the road with a glass atrium, it connects both buildings which are situated on Museum Row. We spent the first part of the day visiting the Muhammad Ali Centre (it could have been all day it was so good) before moving on to the Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum. Although we did not have time for a full tour, it will be a must for next time.
After a few drinks it was decided 4th Street was the place for dinner. It is a combination of Fremont Street in Las Vegas for neon signs and the soon to be visited Beale Street in Memphis for bars and restaurants. The Hard Rock Café was decided on for night caps at the “Howl at the Moon Bar” with its duelling pianos, great music and a taste of things to come.
Day 9 – Wednesday 19th August
Another 8.30 start saw us underway to the Jim Beam Distillery and an hour later we arrived in time for the first one hour tour at 9.30am including a tasting of two of their products. It was just like the brochure so to speak, being set in the rolling bluegrass Kentucky hills. It was a great experience even if you are not a drinker, but we don’t have any of them on this tour anyway.
Then it was off to Bristol. We encountered quite a bit of heavy rain along the way which added about an hour to our trip, so it was decided to go straight to the track to hopefully see the Truck qualifying and Modified race prior to the big one. But again rain was our enemy cancelling both of these events, or so we thought. OMG is the first impression of this track right from the approach and it only gets more imposing on entry. Think Daytona crushed down to a half mile with seating all around which goes up to the sky.
They call it the last Colosseum with the World’s fastest half mile. I always remember my first visit to Eldora when Trevor Green told me it was like watching a video on fast forward. Well that is more than an apt description of Bristol and we have only seen the Trucks so far.
Finally the weather cleared and the race was on. It was run in two segments after a rain delay, but that didn’t take too long thanks to the ten track dryers and service vehicles which is quite a sight in itself, but not for too long. Ryan Blaney who led early, then given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pits worked his way back to beat Matt Crafton in a green, white checker finish much to the delight of the relatively small crowd.
On our return to the car we again heard the roar of engines, only to learn they had decided to run the earlier rain effected Modified race. Only problem was they made no announcement of this and almost all the crowd had left. Bugger ….
The weather forecast is not good for the Late Models tomorrow, but excellent for the big guns on Friday and Saturday so fingers crossed.
Day 10 – Thursday 20th August
Rain, rain, go away. Rained out tonight for the Late Models at Volunteer Speedway. Better find something else to do for H and the crew. The back up plan had always been to attend the Fan Day in downtown Bristol, where the main street is closed off and filled with race car and vintage tractor displays that Pat Topp would have thought only existed in heaven. There was heaps of free food, give away stalls, bars selling cold beer and Johnny Cash on one stage and Elis on the other.
The initial $6 entry was a concern to some but what else would you do? It looked like it would be great and it was, with everyone returning with bags full of goodies, not to mention the free hot dogs cooked on a grille that covered the back tray of a semi.
When we visited Jim Beam we were made aware of a Bourbon Trail that could be followed through Kentucky, not that time would allow that, but we since quickly established our own by choosing not to pay $20 / bottle at the Distillery believing that the next Wal-Mart would have it cheaper. Even though the previous tow didn’t, it became a mission to find it. After a third visit was also unsuccessful and much homework amongst the crew hungry for a victory, we found what we were looking for and our mobile GST bar was complete.
We are fortunate enough to be staying in a delightful hotel here in Bristol with an outside cabana area in the garden. A private entrance from the car park allows us to simply back up the van and wheel the esky in under cover of darkness. We started with pre-dinner drinks followed by a delightful dinner at Red Lobster on the other side of the fence and then back to the bar for nightcaps. The fact that Gary and Steve’s room is on the ground floor makes it just perfect for the esky to sleep overnight.
The previous night we had set up our temporary bar in the Lobby lounge due to rain. It was there we met Dwayne from Charlotte who drives the display truck for Toyota Racing and is on a similar trail to us ending up at the Drags in Indy. Dwayne has invited us to find him in the Midway tomorrow for some free earplugs. And when I enquired if we would need them, his reply was “Dang boy, they are not just for your hearing. They are to keep your brains in man. Those NASCARS only make 700 horsepower …. the Drag boys are making 10,000 HP at 6.5G’s. A rocket to the moon only pulls three G’s. Within three seconds they are doing 300mph. You just have time to shift gears and hang on before you shit your pants.”
We can’t wait to see that.
Days 11 & 12 – Friday / Saturday 21st & 22nd August
Russell to the rescue. My biggest concern had always been parking in terms of getting home to our hotel after the event. Horror stories abound as the roads are closed to allow some 130,000 fans to exit after the event and all traffic (when allowed to leave) is sent in the opposite direction to the way you want to travel. It can take you up to two hours some said.
Thankfully Russell, who attended last year and was aware of this, knew of a spot up the road after the traffic diversion and although a walk of about a mile, we were able to get home on both nights in about half an hour to open the Cabana Bar.
The Tail Gate Party
On Saturday it was decided to leave reasonably early to again ensure our prime parking spot. A small detour was made in order to buy another 1.75 litre bottle of Beam as most of the original was consumed under the stars the night before. On arrival we were directed to a spot next door to where we had parked the night before. It was down a grassy embankment and backed up to a creek under big shady trees. As the hour was early at 12.30pm and given a 7.30pm race start, after a brief consultation we decided to open the bar.
As this delightful spot slowly filled with what seemed bigger and bigger pick-up trucks to dwarf our diminutive van, a diverse range of characters began to appear. Older, younger and everything in between with grilles, BBQ’s and even a smoker for the ribs, mostly just picked up from the back garden and tied in the truck. How could we ever feel guilty about drinking at this hour when Jack Daniels’ and Fireball were being consumed in what seemed like a pass the bottle contest? All to Charlie Daniels singing “Kiss an angel good morning” being played on the Boom Box next to the smoker accompanying the smell of Hickory Ribs.
Gail and Patrick were opposite with the grille on full and the exchange of a GST Aussie flag cap ensured we were invited for lunch and some great conversation. Before we knew it, it was 5.00pm so let’s go racing.
I have a thing called pinch me moments. These are when you are in a totally different environment to that at home and you just have to do it. I don’t get them too much anymore as I am fortunate to have traveled quite a bit. But from the time you enter this venue they are there. They are there too when you take your seat to see 42 cars line up on the starting grid and when 130,000 fans stand in unison to watch the start. Thankfully without anyone asking everybody to light up their phones and wiggle them about.
The races were won by Kyle Busch on Friday and Joey Lugano on Saturday. Both were excellent as you would expect from so many cars on a half mile track and were a highlight for our group. As were the reserved seats at a perfect height and in the shade. We were home by 11.00pm with time for night caps and sleep before heading off to Music City, Nashville the next morning.
Days 13 & 14 – Sunday / Monday 23rd & 24th August
After a pleasant trip we arrived at another great and centrally located hotel, the Hyatt Place Downtown in Nashville. As only two rooms were ready they were allocated to Russell & Bob and Dave & Fran and the rest of us thought we would check out Broadway until we received a call to advise the rooms were ready.
We were thirsty and many of the dozens of venues along this amazing strip beckoned, but it was the fiddle being played in a great band in Honkey Tonk Central that got our vote. After what seemed like a reasonably short time but was in fact a couple of hours, we decided we had better check in despite another band starting that was just as good as the first.
Dinner was planned for the group and we decided to meet up on the roof of the George Jones Bar for happy hour drinks, which we did with the intention of dining at the Wild Horse Saloon next door. However as some were hungry and some weren’t and the band was loud (but great) it was decided we would do our own thing and plan a group dinner tomorrow night.
Those who stayed would soon hear the band leader announce the presence of a table of Aussies and we immediately stood as requested only to find it was the table behind us. Introductions were made with the inevitable questions to find they were music fans from all over with one of the group, named Gail, being from Campbelltown and a paramedic who more often than not is assigned to Parramatta Speedway on Saturday night.
The night continued from bar to bar listening to the most amazing music, however they found it difficult to get me out of Roberts Western World where they will not play anything recorded after 1972.
The next day continued with our great run of 80 degree summer weather as we all boarded the Hop on Hop off Trolley tour. Well worth it at $28 which filled in most of the morning. The rest of the day was spent on visiting one’s own preferred attractions from all of those visited on the Trolley. My preferences were the Johnny Cash Museum and a vintage clothing shop in a total 60’s time warp where we spent almost an hour talking to the owner who has sat in the same stool behind the same cash register for over 40 years.
A group dinner was organised at Joe’s Crab Shack which was enjoyed by all and then of course Broadway beckoned, but not too late as we have to be up early for our drive to Memphis tomorrow.
Days 15 & 16 – Tuesday / Wednesday 25th & 26th August
An 8.30am departure from Nashville saw us arrive at Jack Daniels’ in time for the 10.00am free tour. Compared to the reasonably basic working type of distillery that Jim Beam is, this is exactly as in the many documented images and is quite spectacular on approach.
Every single drop of Jack sold worldwide is produced here in Lynchburg, a dry county. Set in a great period town, it has the most incredible stores featuring everything from Jack furniture to clothing and even Jack ice cream, much to Richard’s delight. Wow, this could be another pinch me moment.
We arrived at the Westin Hotel in Memphis (another great location and venue with weather to match) after a bit of disagreement with the GPS by some we settled in before heading for refreshments on Beale Street within a block of our Hotel. It was Classic Car night which is on the last Tuesday in each month of summer and a complete bonus for us. The many street bars would sell you a 32oz big mother beer for $8 and you could drink and stroll just like in New Orleans. Dinner followed at BB Kings with an outstanding band. Bring on Bike Night tomorrow.
9.00am was the departure time for Graceland and our visit with Elvis. This was the day Fran had looked forward to most on the whole trip. $45 covered the mansion, car and plane tour and we were up and running. Personally this is my fourth visit over the years and I remain convinced that Elvis is “still in the building”. Total American Pie even down to the 50’s theme diners where we had lunch.
After a full morning it was time to head to Sun Studios to again meet Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny and Roy. More wow factor here as it is totally untouched from those 50’s recording sessions. Jake our native Memphis guide who met an Aussie girl on his tour and now lives in Canberra, was fantastic and a completely wasted talent with undeniable passion for the place which he translates beautifully.
Now time to head off to the Peabody Hotel for the “Marching of the Ducks” which has been a tradition since 1933. They are brought down by lift from the Penthouse at 11.00am each day to reside in the Lobby Fountain and are returned at 5.00pm. Once around the fountain along the red carpet and into the lift assisted by the Duck Master. This time honoured tradition is witnessed by hundreds in an overcrowded lobby each day. Wow, better freshen up for Bike night.
The time is 6.15pm and we are sitting in a sidewalk bar. Steve says, “Pete how come all the streets are closed and there are only two bikes parked? Don’t know mate. Maybe they won’t have it because of the cars last night.”
The time is 7.15pm. Steve says, “Pete there must be over 2,000 bikes here. I have never seen anything like this, unbelievable mate.”
And that it was. Bigger, better and a cast of thousands of the weird and wonderful. An amazing experience. Words could not possibly explain this unreal event. Dinner completed this fantastic day.
Footnote on the Band scene in Nashville and Memphis.
They all play for tips and are not paid by the venues, preferring to send the jar around each hour. Hence all cash, no tax or union fees. They are great. Work non-stop and should be supported so this amazing scene can be continued.
Days 17, 18, 19, 20 – Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th August
A long, but a quite easy nine hour drive with stops saw us arrive at the Courtyard Marriott in Kokomo, Indiana about 4 o’clock in enough time to freshen up and be at the track just 20 minutes away by around 5.30pm. Even at this time on a Thursday night the car park was full and we still had to pick up tickets, so for the princely sum of $15 we secured a spot in the shade close to the track for the next three nights. A perfect spot among the many RV’S to establish the GST Travelling Bar.
Before we could find our perfectly situated seats in the back row on the front straight, we were greeted by the cast of the fast Brent and Mrs. Goodnight. “Peter, man I was lookin’ for you an hour ago. I wanted you to be interviewed with my brother the Mayor of Kokomo for bringing your crew from so far away.” “No problems Brent, we will set it up for next year.”
Then almost immediately “Wayne the Train” from Parramatta appeared. He drives one at home by the way and is a GST friend from Sydney who has always been insistent we do a tour that incorporates Smackdown. Then Terry Barry from our MoM tour and Andrew Quinn, America’s most travelled sprintcar fan arrived just in time to get a couple in before the start of the first race having watched qualifying from the very comfortable “Turn 5” bar on the screens.
The racing from day one could only be described as exceptional with slide jobs a plenty right from the opening heats. The A was won by Robert Ballou in a great race. Some of the group opted to return to the GST bar in our car park spot, but most wanted to see how good the Frank Sinatra impersonator (at a Speedway, you are kidding) would be in the Turn 5 bar. Believe it or not he was great, much to the delight of the large local crowd and we could have stayed all night.
As if to complete a perfectly scripted evening Terry then chased us back to the car to ask “Did you see that fight in the pits between the Ballou and Darland crews? They were all into it.” Brent later confirmed that there had been some ongoing bad blood between the two for quite some time and it was triggered by the winner’s post-race comments. Yeeha… this is fun.
A fairly relaxing Friday followed with shopping chores requested by some of the group and of course lunch before returning to the track around 5.00pm in time for pre-race drinks. Again the racing was excellent and the penny finally dropped as to why this place is so good. It is old fashioned speedway, as simple as that. Dusty yes, with big Rooster tails off the back of the cars, but the dive bombing is just amazing as they run the cushion high on the fence and then charge hard back down the track in the corners. To see one car do it is fascinating, but when they are three wide …..
The A was won by Chase Stockon in another exciting race that went right down to the wire. Tonight’s post-race entertainment was a great Cowboy band complete with the obligatory fiddle player. Wayne was insistent that he could get us an invite to the Folic, an after party for all the drivers and invited guests. After initially declining, Richard in his true Superman form decided he would take one for the team and would stay on with the assurance of a lift home. The host of this iconic event did confirm the following day that he went to bed at 5.30am and left them to it. As for Richard, I have not asked him what time he arrived back at the Hotel preferring it to remain part of the myth, but we all know he sure enjoyed himself.
Under threat of rain and a bad forecast on Saturday night, we departed for the 40 lap A to be proceeded by the King of the Hill top 8 shootout. The rain came just as the fourth heat was completed and we thought we were in for a late night. Tomorrow’s forecast was worse, so despite a shower they kept the show running although we did wonder why they still put the TQ midget feature on and persisted with the driver introductions (sound familiar), but to their credit they got ‘er done. It was a clinic off the pole by Dave Darland and although he was never headed, it was a battle royal back in the pack with some incredible carnage along the way.
No Frank or Cowboy band tonight, just farewells in the Turn 5 bar and promises to meet again next year under the Aussie Flag which had been raised by Wayne the Train earlier in the evening with much fanfare and the promise that it will always remain.
Once more we cannot speak highly enough of the hotel staff as they allowed us the use of the gazebo in the garden during the day and a round table with the contemporary matching chairs in their delightful lobby at night for nightcaps. Hence we were dubbed the Knights of the Round Table.
Sunday was a necessary rain day which was required last year, but not this time so what to do? Firstly do not wake Richard. Lord his body needs the rest. Next find a Walmart for a necessary refreshments stop. But you cannot buy liquor on a Sunday in Indiana, so have to do that tomorrow. However we did notice a classic car show on the front lawns of the Chrysler Transmission factory and a very pleasant hour was filled in.
A phone call was then received from the sleeping Superman and he was duly picked up and was ready to fly again. What to do now? On both of Russell’s and my lists were the Kokomo Auto Museum and the Grissom Air Museum. Each was duly visited and both proved to be highlights, with the latter a very impressive aircraft and military display.
Then back to the hotel for a swim in this continuing great weather with a photo stop at Seiberling Mansion along the way. This is the most famous piece of architecture in Kokomo and added some much needed culture to the group. So now how to finish off a delightful day? Dinner of course and Ruby Tuesday’s was selected for its superb seafood and steaks and did not disappoint.
Ah all this and a much deserved early night, but little did we know we were about to face a crisis that would threaten the entire tour within seconds.
The culprit should remain nameless, but it was Richard (we should have left him in bed) who would be the instigator. “Turn left into the Double Scoop Ice Cream Drive In” was his call as opposed to right and the comfort of the Round Table. I could see the trouble coming as we attempted to finish off the day with the mid-west US summer tradition of Sunday night ice cream. Doubles were immediately ordered by all except me, as I don’t believe you can get a body like mine ordering doubles, so I went alone for a single.
Gazza even went for a double flavour combo; however the anticipation soon turned to fear as the doubles began to innocently appear from the windows measuring all of 12 inches high with two softball size scoops on top. We knew we were in for a fight and the seafood and steaks never stood a chance, not to mention those who took the heathy salad option at dinner. Serves you right Richard, you brought us to this hell hole. We all went down in defeat and what was not consigned to the tummy went in the bin.
Where it had up until now been quite comfortable to have eight in a 12 seater van, it was now almost impossible as one wondered if we would have to go up in the elevator one at a time. Needless to say nightcaps were difficult, but Steve did manage two beers on top of a double scoop Choc Chip. Dear Lord, please forgive us.
Days 21, 22, 23 – Monday 31st August, Tuesday 1st, Wednesday 2nd September
We departed Kokomo mid-morning with the obligatory Wal-Mart stop followed by the relatively easy drive to the Courtyard Marriott in Indianapolis which will be our home for the last eight days of the tour. The first four days, until we start racing again on Friday, will be much more relaxing as the schedule to date, whilst exciting has been hectic to say the least. There are a few must do’s we have this time which include a combination of local attractions and some rest time before it starts all over again.
Although our attendance at the Chevy Performance Drag Nationals will only be for the final two days, it did commence on Wednesday so we thought a visit to Lucas Oil Raceway would be in order to check things out before it gets crazy on the weekend. However the $17 admission was a deterrent to some, so after the necessary photo opportunities we continued our Brownsburg tour, which is the home of most of the race shops.
No point this week in trying to visit John Force or any of the other Drag Teams as they were obviously busy down the road preparing for their busiest week of the year. Simpson Racewear is always popular where Kelly Kinser’s daughter always makes us feel welcome. Then it was off to the Pit Stop BBQ for lunch which is a totally themed race memorabilia café. We have also managed visits to the Union Jack Hotel for dinner, which is very similar to the Pitstop, but with even more race stuff and a pub vibe.
No trip would be complete without a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to at least revisit the museum where the displays are always changing (the current Dan Gurney one is great) and to see again the amazing collection of race winning cars. However tomorrow will a new Indy experience for Steve & I as we get to play golf on the infield course.
We have some great adventures coming up in our final few days apart from the golf which will include a couple more race shop visits, an opportunity to watch a Colts football game at the famed Lucas Oil Stadium tomorrow night, followed by the downtown street party and then we go Racing again, so it’s about to get hectic once more. Unfortunately the only downside is the lure of the Bourbon Street Bar across the road with its daily drink specials and great staff. It has so far proved impossible to get an early night as a nightcap is never just one for some.
Days 24 & 25 – Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th September
The good and bad news ….
First the good and there was plenty of it. After a shopping expo to the Outlet Stores in Edinburgh on I-65 to ensure bags would be maxed out for the trip home, we had a couple of days to fill before going drag racing. At Global Speedway Tours we always encourage guest recommendations and try to accommodate where ever possible.
Such has been the case in the last couple of days and this morning we acted on a “Russell recommendation” and paid a visit to the Dallara Indy car factory, almost next door to the Speedway, where we were taken on a tour for the princely amount of $10 which gave us access to a great range of cars and also unlimited time on their amazing simulators. Dallara are the sole supplier of cars and components (except engines) for the Indy Racing League and to see how the carbon fibre tubs and frames are made in house was very interesting and would prove a great comparison to the hand rolled aluminium of days gone by which we would see at Walter Goodwin’s shop the next day.
They say that one good thing leads to another, as was the case on this occasion when we found out Dallara have a two seat Indy Car at the Indianapolis Speedway and for $60 they will strap you into that, or a Pace Car (up to 4) for two laps of this most famous track. Unfortunately the maximum speed is governed to 60 mph, but it is still a great experience. However in June 2016 (potential travellers take note) Mario will take you in a more powerful version at 160 mph for $500.
After lunch Steve and I, being the only two golfers on this tour, again returned to the Speedway to have a crack at the course which consists of 14 holes on the outside and four on the infield of the track. Does not matter how I played, the experience was great; chipping and putting in the shadow of the famous Pagoda was memorable stuff and I would strongly recommend it to any future golfing tour guests. Time did not allow for the almost mandatory 19th hole drinks in the clubhouse as we wanted to get downtown to savour the atmosphere of the street party and the Colts game.
What better way than to head to the concourse at Lucas Oil Stadium? The thought was that we would love to attend, but at a ticket price of up to $150 it was not going to happen. We could hear the kick off and the roar was so loud we just had to enquire at the scalped ticket cost and for $10 we were escorted inside. The price seemed to be too good to be true, but then pinch me again, I’m here as the whole stadium opened up before our eyes.
There were sprintcars, Indy cars, NASCARS, late models and even a plane hanging from the ceiling on the forecourt with rail dragsters mounted on their tail and pointing towards the sky. OMG this is surely the football equivalent of Bristol and when the roof was opened at half time, well that was the icing on the cake. The game, despite plenty of help from the locals with rule explanation, was boring but the experience was the best ten bucks we have ever spent.
The temptation of a “dog” had been resisted all night in anticipation of Meat Balls at Bucco the legendary downtown classic Italian and the wait was more than worthwhile to end a great day.
The next day brought about a much anticipated morning visit to Walter Goodwin’s Classic Racecar restoration shop. He is often featured on the American TV show hosted by legendary crew chief Ray Everingham and features Rick Hendricks the most winning of all NASCAR owners. Walter’s shop is always full of classic Indy Cars in various stages of restoration and he is always so incredibly busy. So for him to sit on a stool for two hours and recall his fifty plus years of memories was mesmerising with so many legendary names mentioned in such a matter a fact way. Wow, “that was great” was the opinion of the group.
Walter is intending to be in Sydney over Christmas and will be our guest for at least one night at Parramatta and the offer to gain access to the Everingham and Hendricks’ collections, if ever visiting Charlotte, is priceless.
That took longer than we thought, but there was still time for lunch before we departed for the James Dean Museum in the quaintest of towns just ten miles southwest from Gas City. The drive into Fairmount aroused the senses with a never ending array of ageing classic cars in almost every driveway and the ‘57 Pink Deville Caddy alongside the white weatherboard farmhouse was right out of the Andy Griffith Show. This detour was another “Russell recommendation” and just like the last one, was a highlight.
A visit to the grave to have a beer with James was suggested and acted on accordingly as was a look at the family’s home before heading off to Gas City under ever darkening skies.
Now for the bad news. Before the hand brake was applied in the turn one carpark, the heavens opened with lightning to match and racing was called off before most of us had left the vehicle. The return drive home was a combination of blinding rain and sunshine, often at the same time, however we were safely seated at the Bourbon by eight after car park drinks.
As tomorrow approaches we hope we do not suffer the same fate for the King of Non-Wings at Lincoln Park, Putnamville and the anticipation of Sunday and Monday’s Drag Racing National’s attendance approaches after so much hype.
Days 26, 27, 28 & 29 – Saturday, Sunday, Monday & Tuesday 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th September
When Dave Argabright was asked the question about the success of the Knoxville Nationals at our lunch at the start of our tour, he made the point about creating an event and not just a race. That fact has been in my thoughts throughout the whole tour, but never more so than at the NHRA Drag Nationals, but more about that later.
After being washed out at Gas City we held high hopes for the King of Non-Wings at Putnamville Speedway on Saturday night. We arrived after a leisurely day and a nice Bourbon Street Distillery lunch to find there would be four divisions running. Sprints, Late Models, Modifieds and Thunder Cars with a car count of about 40 in each division. This could be great, or maybe not so great, depending on how the track holds up. Unfortunately it was the latter with all of those big sedan classes causing the track to go slick top to bottom very early.
We lost count, but there were at least 40 yellows in the heats prior to the sprintcar A main resulting in an amazing amount of stoppages with no regard to the time taken to get the race restarted. Even more frustrating was the amount of times a car would spin to bring on a yellow and then simply drive away. As Rodney Rude would say “I hate that”.
After twin B’s in each division they at least started the sprintcar A first at about 11.30pm. It was won by Shane Cottle and was actually quite a good race with the second and third placings filled by a 16 & 13 year old respectively. Then we were out of there, even though they announced they would run another feature for those who did not make the first feature, only to find out at the Hotel the next morning they were still running at 1.30am with two other features to go.
I must confess I have never seen such a more diverse or unusual array of fans. We were requested to have a photo with one family for their 13 year old for show and tell at school to prove that Australian people are real and the Fireworks guy almost blew us all up, but that’s another one of many stories from a night at Putnamville.
Next day was “double duty Sunday” with our first day at the drags combined with a final visit to Kokomo which was just like we left it after Smackdown. A slick show in complete contrast to the previous night with great racing in all divisions and the Aussie Flag was still flying proudly in the bar. We were home, or at least back in the Bourbon, by 11.30pm.
Dave A, you are so right. It is all about events and this is a “big mother six days of pure thunder” and although we only attended for the final two, wow what an experience. Even the sun, which had been so kind to us all tour, came out in force and sitting in it was a mere downside to this amazing experience. The only way to describe the racing is a very loud earthquake as the ground trembles, the stands shake and the heat hits you right in the face for the three seconds it takes the big boys to travel 1,000 feet and hit 300+ mph.
Away from the strip on the midway, the trade stalls and the promotional events were endless combined with nostalgic car displays and so much more. The six days could have easily been spent just wandering and looking. The event was sponsored by Chevrolet so we had the opportunity to drive a new Camaro or Corvette on the adjacent half mile paved oval, which Richard described as just unreal when we were on the way to Kokomo on the Sunday night. Of course Monday was too busy and too late so thanks for sharing pal. Why don’t you just stick to your selfies with every promo girl you can find (just kidding)?
Footnote for those who have travelled with us before. If Luke Schneider holds the record for the highest amount of promotional banners found on tour, then Richard has the same distinction with promotional girls.
Apart from the heat, we had the best two days with unlimited access to all of the pits where you can stand and watch an engine being rebuilt in 35 minutes between runs. Parking was well organised with non-stop internal shuttles to take you to and from the car park and inside the track and exiting after the event on Monday afternoon was only a two beer affair.
“Would I watch drag racing every week like speedway? No, but once a year on this scale … yes please”.
Tonight was the GST farewell dinner at the Bourbon Street Distillery and all three of our favourite girls were there to serve us and as usual make us feel at home. For a bit of fun I announced that there would be voting for the Ultimate 3 Top 10 tour highlights and the categories and winners were:
Knoxville, Bristol, Kokomo or the Drags
The win was shared by Bristol & Kokomo
2.Best Racing Event
Knoxville, Bristol, Smackdown or
The winner was Bristol (unanimous)
3.Best Non Racing Event
Walter Goodwin, Graceland, Dallara – Indy track experience, NFL Football or Nashville Music
Walter was the winner, just beating Elvis
4.Best Place / City visited
Pella, Louisville, Kentucky, Bristol, Nashville, Memphis or Indianapolis.
Nashville beat Memphis 6 to 2
It was me trying to make quick time through the carpark boom gate by tailgating another vehicle, only to have the arm descend at a rapid rate on the bonnet. No damage except when the Esky toppled over and spilt drinks and ice through the van. So hard to get out from under the seats.
6.Fondest Memory from the whole tour
Mohammed Ali Museum was unanimous
Dingus, Bourbon, Honkey Tonk Central Nashville, GST Car
This one breaks my heart. It was the Car Bar 4 to 3 over the Honkey Tonk and 1 for Dingus
8.Most Popular drink
Jack or Jim and Coke tied
9.Most Popular meal
Hands down the Pork Chops at the Bourbon
10.Best Secondary Event
Broadway Nashville, Jim Beam / Jack Daniels’ Distilleries, Bike Night on Beale St Memphis, or the Peabody.
There were seven votes for Bike night and one for the Ducks
Sincerest thanks to all who travelled with us for your trust, help, input and for joining me on this amazing road trip which for me was one of great personal satisfaction and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.