If you couldn't tell there was a different breed of people in our city last week, just consider the line my friend Kimiko heard from a racing fan during the Speed Street festivities. After telling her she was the prettiest girl of all time, the guy added a little get-to-know-you question: "Who's your favorite number?"
She considered telling him her lucky number was 14, but the man had asked "who?"
Then she noticed the man was wearing a huge number eight on his shirt and realized he was asking for her favorite race car driver. She told him she didn't follow NASCAR, and shortly afterwards he asked her if she would be his baby's mama. Kimi, aka the Heartbreaker, politely declined.
Creative Loafing decided to get to know some of Charlotte's visitors during Speed Street this year by setting up a confessional booth, which we called an "Asphalt Confessional," for people to pop in and share their stories. Of the 250 confessions we recorded, here are some highlights.
The best introduction to a confession: "Several of the things I would like to confess to involve perversion, debauchery and just plain sex."
Actually, most of the confessions could have begun that way. Take this one:
"I'm running 33, 34 years old. Hell, when I was 18 one time, there was this big ole girl. I was at this country party back in the woods. She was one of them butterfaces ... What ended up happening was, she caught me in the crowd and she called me out on being danggone small -- having a small pecker and everything. But she did label me as a grower. She was about 350 pounds."
Or this one:
"Last night, I had too many beers. I kind of blacked out and everything. I woke up this morning in a hotel with a girl I didn't know. She wasn't really very pretty. Or very skinny. She looked like James Dean on drugs, and overweight."
In NASCARspeak, "messin' around" can mean tinkering with cars, bikes, humans or in one woman's story, more than one of the above:
"Me and my brothers were outside and so were my neighbors. We were just messin' around, we were riding trick bikes and going up ramps. Then my neighbor realized I had a tongue ring, so I guess he wanted to know what it was used for ..." (The story gets too graphic for print after that, but basically she shows her neighbor what the tongue ring is used for, despite being best friends with the man's wife.)
Then there were the driver-related stories. In the course of 20 minutes, two people recounted unrelated Rusty Wallace tales. One lady said Rusty was her favorite driver because he paid a NASCAR fine in pennies just like she did when she got a traffic violation. Another lady said she dropped a camera on Rusty's head; five years later he still recognized her. There were also quite a few automotive tales, including one that ended up with 15 jeeps stuck in mud.
Several people used the booth to confess things that would be more appropriate in a therapy session:
"I've been here struggling with myself. I'm a recovering addict. Almost 10 months ago, I met a nice lady. She helped me get sober and clean, even though we went through some bad times. As of last Saturday she left me abandoned. Pretty much left me on the street with no money, and no love and support. I've been almost attempting suicide the last several days."
And, of course, there were the crazies:
"It's not a story, but let me tell you about the demise of social order as we know it. The correct door is the door on the right. Here in Charlotte, every door you enter is the left door. CVS has actually locked the right door, forcing people to go through the left door, going against all social order. It started here. I've been looking around. Atlanta is doing the same thing. It's a left-door conspiracy."
On Sunday night, I had infield passes for the race. The best place to watch in the infield is on platforms built on the tops of campers, trucks and buses. But even there, you could only see a tiny section of the track, which is why many people had TVs to watch the race on while they were watching the race. For those not interested in the race, cruising down the infield road on Razor scooters was a popular activity, as was throwing glass bottles off the platforms to shatter by innocent spectators.
Many of the 200,000 race fans looked as if they were pretending to be in the pit crew. Wearing racing headphones they purchased outside the speedway, fans could pick up the frequencies the pit crews and drivers communicated on. With all the noise from the cars, races are quite antisocial. The grandstand fans were like zombies, staring ahead at the track without making an attempt to interact with the people around them.
To make watching the sport in which cars drive in a circle a little less mundane, it's fun to pick your favorite number and root for him. I chose number 12, Ryan Newman, because when the other 40 cars were all bunched together, 12 was adorably a quarter lap behind the pack -- like the ugly duckling working so hard to catch up to his brothers. My friend picked number 29, Kevin Harvick, because of his sponsor: Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. At the end of the race, when winner Kasey Kahne was shown celebrating on the jumbotron, splashing milk like the dairy hater he is, we imagined the camera panning over to Kevin crying over his 34th place finish and stuffing his face with consolatory chocolates.
Another car of note was Bobby Labontie's Gogurt car, number 43. The Gogurt car sparked a debate between my friend and me on whether or not it would be enjoyable to take a bath in Gogurt. My friend was anti-Gogurt bath, on the grounds of gooeyness. Arguing the opposite, I offered a point of information that berries are fragrant and therefore conducive to cleanliness.
A NASCAR race is a spectacle everyone should see at least once. If you've never gone before, don't make the mistake I did. Unlike at football or basketball games, bringing your own booze to auto racing is pretty much a requirement not an option.
To hear all of "The Asphalt Confessions," go to CL Media at www.charlotte.creativeloafing.com.