June 12, 2011

Revved Up at Riverhead Raceway

Did you know that Race Car spelled backwards is Race Car?

Every Saturday, the Riverhead Raceway presents an evening of car racing. I had never been to a live racetrack; televised car racing never excited me so I was very curious about this event.

I took my seat in the bleachers that surround the figure-8 track, iced tea and Crackerjacks in hand, and listened to the announcements being broadcast over the loudspeakers. I could feel the enthusiasm of the crowd, many of whom I learned were steady racetrack patrons. First, the Legend Cars emerged from the pits, doing a few warm up laps. Soon, the green flag was waved and the racers sped around the track like a circular storm of multi-colored lightning. As they whizzed by my seat, I could feel a strong wave of dust and exhaust hit me in the face, forcing me to cover my eyes. The din of so many engines being pushed to their limits brought my senses to their threshold. It was intense and I soon saw the appeal.

There were fender-benders too. At one point, a car left the ground, spiraling through the air like a wound-up top and crashing down to the pavement completely destroyed. The crowd gasped and lurched forward in their seats for a better view, holding their breath as the yellow warning flag was waved and all of the movement on the track and in the stands came to an immediate halt. The moment seemed to be frozen in time, all eyes focused on the crushed car. Soon, the driver emerged from the wreckage waving his helmet to the legion of delighted onlookers. A boisterous ovation erupted from everywhere. Within seconds, the wreck was towed away and the cars revved up once again...

The evening's events were capped off by a School Bus Demolition Derby. Six big buses appeared on the sidelines of the racetrack. I was particularly fascinated by this part of the evening; I drive school buses every afternoon as my second job and to see them being demolished was bittersweet. On signal, they charged forward like a frontline of yellow battering rams. I winced as they collided into each other, sending shards of fiberglass and distressed metal into the cool night. The sound was metallic thunder as they crashed into each other like over-sized bumper cars at an amusement park. One by one, the buses began to sputter out as the racetrack turned into a junkyard. Finally, one hearty bus emerged from the cloud of smoke and fumes: Cheesebox! I found it reassuring to see the colossal amount of damage a school bus could withstand and still operate safely. The sturdiness was really quite amazing.

After the events were over, the raceway opened the driver's pit to the public. Guests were able to meet the drivers and view the vehicles up close. A great way to end an entertaining evening!

"I consider my life worth nothing to me,
if only I may finish the race and complete
the task the Lord Jesus has given me --
the task of testifying to the gospel
of God's grace."

~Acts 20:24