A goofy press release last week led me to a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday night doing something I hadn’t ever considered.
The media department at Atlanta Motor Speedway sought to use some humor to generate attention for the finale of this summer’s Thursday Thunder amateur and semi-pro racing series because they were to be held on a Saturday instead. I don’t normally dwell on the sports press releases in my email because we have a very capable sports department and I have enough to focus on, but this one caught my eye.
It announced that for the finale, the course would be arranged in a figure 8. I grew up watching Demolition Derby and figure-8 races on television and begging my parents to take me down to Zebulon Speedway to watch their Crazy 8 races.
My pleas fell on deaf ears, and the track closed long before I was old enough to go on my own. I did go often with friends up to Hampton during high school for NASCAR races, but the wrecks were too infrequent for my immature tastes.
So, last week’s press release seemed to represent my chance to finally see a figure-8 race in person. My bubble was burst by a footnote explaining my leg had been pulled. Fortunately, when I shared my shattered dream with one of the AMS media team, he invited me to come anyway. My wife was out of town, so I went.
Now, a lot of sports fans wouldn’t go to an event like this. They’re drawn to superlatives, the fastest runner, the longest hitter, the biggest linebacker and so on. They live for playoffs. They shun anything but professional leagues, and maybe the Olympics.
The Thursday Thunder races reminded me why they’re making a mistake.
Sure, the Legends cars only have 132 horsepower, and the Bandolero even less at just 30, with tiny 6-inch tires, meaning plenty of spinouts. Action pauses for yellow flags more often than penalty whistles in a girls’ junior-high basketball game.
These aren’t big-league drivers or pit crews. They make lots of mistakes.
That’s the point. By watching inexperienced competitors sharpen their skills, it allows sports fans to have a greater appreciation for those at the top of the competition in comparison.
Sitting in my living room, it’s easy to jeer at the Braves’ leadoff hitter, even though I could never connect with a 95 mph fastball myself. But after a June afternoon sitting between scouts 10 feet behind home plate at a Georgia State baseball came, I’m a little less smug about it.
I enjoy making the short drive to West Georgia’s gym and stadium and catching high school football, not that any of our local teams are slouches.
Now that I’ve stumbled upon Thursday Thunder, I may take in a few of those events when I can slip away from the office on a week night. It’s a way to pay homage to the greats.
Walter Jones is the publisher of NTH, which includes The Newnan Times-Herald, times-herald.com, Newnan-Coweta Magazine, Xtra and Coweta Living.