One thing I've always admired about sports is how they bring friends and families together.
For the sake of this column, I'm considering NASCAR a sport - although its sure to ruffle the feathers of some of those reading.
As long as I've followed NASCAR, the sport has always put a large emphasis on family. That emphasis is not limited to the drivers, crews and owners, either.
Create a memory
Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert, left, poses with his father Todd on the frontstretch of Martinsville Speedway prior to Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 event at the Ridgeway, Va. track.
Making a mark
Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert signs the start-finish line of Martinsville Speedway prior to Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 event at the Ridgeway, Va. track.
Brayden May, the nine year-old nephew of Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert, poses with Miss Sprint Cup Kristen Beat during pre-race festivites of the Tums Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race Sunday in Ridgeway, Va.
Right at home
Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert poses beside the Martinsville Speedway sign prior to entering the track for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 event at the Ridgeway, Va. track.
Back at the track
Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert was just a few rows back from Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. this past Sunday at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Va. Earnhardt Jr. returned to the track after missing the previous two races with the effects of a concussion. Despite running second with 20 laps to go, Earnhardt Jr. finished 21st after late contact with Carl Edwards.
Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert, back left, poses with nephew Brayden May, front, brother-in-law Ramsey May, back right, and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kenny Wallace prior to the start of Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 race at Martinsville Speedway.
Something to remember
Brayden May, nine year-old nephew of Times Observer sports writer Allen Seybert, has hit hat signed by former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Petty prior to the start of Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 race at Martinsville Speedway.
It extends all the way to its loyal fan base.
This weekend, my father, Todd, took my brother-in-law Ramsey, my nine year-old nephew Brayden and I to Martinsville Speedway for the Sprint Cup Tums Fast Relief 500.
This was not my first NASCAR experience. My Dad took me to my first NASCAR race in Richmond in 1992. Darlington followed in 1993 followed by Dover and Pocono in 1994, Martinsville in 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2004, and a second trip to Richmond in 2010 for my Dad's 50th birthday.
The trips haven't been limited to NASCAR.
In an effort to "create a memory," my Dad also has taken me to too many Pirates games to count, a Bills-Dolphins playoff game (the last game of all-time NFL coaching wins leader Don Shula's career), an Indianapolis 500, even my first WWE live event.
And my Dad hates professional wrestling.
With this being our 10th race together, Brayden's second trip to Martinsville and Ramsey's first live NASCAR event, I think the ultimate goal of the weekend was again to "create a memory."
I don't know if the weekend could've gone any better.
The good news started the Wednesday before the trip. Let me explain; My Dad molded me into a Dale Earnhardt fan from the time I was old enough to know what NASCAR was. When Earnhardt died in 2001, our loyalties naturally switched to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
On Wednesday, it was announced that, after missing two straight weekends with a concussion, Junior would be back in the No. 88 at Martinsville. That came as a relief. Nothing like driving 500 miles to an event to not even see the person you're there to see.
Imagine being a Steelers fan and driving to Heinz Field for a Steelers-Ravens game only to find out the Browns have replaced the home team (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit).
Another concern before the trip was the weather. With Hurricane Sandy bearing down off the East coast and another storm approaching from the West, it was possible our eight-hour drive would be met with little to no on-track activity.
Instead, the opposite happened. It was 70 degrees and sunny both days and neither the Cup or Truck race were delayed at all. I expected to spend the weekend being pelted by heavy rains and gusty winds. Instead, my face became so sunburned that I spent Sunday night, pondering how a face could turn such a deep shade of red.
I haven't been that sunburned since a trip to Myrtle Beach in 2003. Oddly enough, Ramsey came along for that trip as well. I don't think I should be traveling with him anymore.
The fun started Saturday with the Camping World Truck Series race. I'm not exactly sure how it came to be, but the three of us (Brayden is innocent in any of the weekend's hijinks) spent the pre-race wait coining a new word.
A word that became the rallying cry for the weekend.
I'm not going to tell you what it means - I need this job. But if you know myself, my Dad or Ramsey, feel free to ask. I'm sure we'll jump at the chance to explain it.
While "BOSB!" dominated Saturday, Sunday was all about the Cup race. I think Brayden's highlight of the weekend came in the parking lot before the event.
A pair of attractive college-aged girls were handing out Tums to help promote the event. My Dad asked them to take a picture with Brayden and, after the photo was taken, both girls planted a kiss on opposite sides of Brayden's cheeks. His cheeks were about as red as my sunburned face, but I think he was floating ten feet off the ground the rest of the day.
After the photo, we entered the Speedway for the pre-race Track Walk. For a small fee, you can walk on the front stretch of Martinsville Speedway a couple of hours prior to the race, sign the start-finish line and watch the cars as they are passed through inspection and lined up on pit road. If you're lucky, you'll run into a couple of NASCAR personalities as well.
We were lucky.
Right when we walked in, former NASCAR drivers and current SPEED analysts Kenny Wallace and Kyle Petty were doing a promotional shoot on the front stretch. We were able to chat with each for a few moments and secure a couple of autographs and photos.
Not long after, Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard entered the track right in front of us and my Dad was able to secure a handshake before the driver made his way to the garage area.
As a NASCAR fan, meeting those involved with the sport is always great and I quickly texted my buddy Jarrod to inform him of who I had met.
Jarrod had been jealous of my trip for quite some time (don't worry J-Rod, Charlotte 2014 will be here soon enough) and responded with - "I fully expected you to ruin my day, but not before 9:30 a.m."
Later in the day, and with the race nearing its finish, Junior was spun out by Carl Edwards. I got another text from Jarrod that read - "I hope that happened right in front of you."
Don't hate the player bud, hate the game.
The final person I met on pit road during the track walk was Warren-native and Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Lance Munksgard. Despite doing a story on him in June, this was the first time I have ever met him face-to-face.
At this point, I think I better apologize to Lance. He was nice enough to autograph the hats of my nephew and father. In doing so, it attracted the attention of several others partaking in the Track Walk. While Lance might be able to fly under the radar in his position, the fans behind us saw a guy in a Hendrick Motorsports shirt signing autographs and thought - "we better get one, too."
We walked away and returned 15 minutes later and poor Lance was still signing autographs. I could be wrong, but I don't know if he's ever got that kind of attention before. Hope he didn't mind.
As for the actual race - blah. The two drivers I despise more than any others are Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Want to guess who finished first and second in Sunday's race?
Busch had a chance to wreck Jimmie in the final corner and chose to drive clean for the first time in his career. Are you kidding me?
You had a chance to make a fan of me there Kyle, but you couldn't even do that right. Jimmie won - again. I threw up in my mouth a little bit and we returned outside the track for some tailgating.
Not much to report there other than maybe it was a bad idea to feast on chili and hot sausages when we all had to share the same hotel room later that night.
Turns out those Tums girls in the parking lot were a blessing to all of us - not just Brayden.
All told, it was another special weekend spent with some of the best people I've ever known. Jamie McMurray may drive it on the track, but you're number one, Dad.
Another trip, another million memories.