I’m a living room race fan

It’s been almost 8 years since I attended a NASCAR race.

I miss the drama and excitement of the race, but I don’t miss the hassle involved with actually being there.

As a member of the media I have attended dozens of races at Dover Downs International Speedway, a few at Bristol Motor Speedway and even one at Richmond International Raceway.

David Pearson's #21 when he drove for the Wood Brothers.

Racing has exploded to the point it’s called Race Weekend now with hundreds of thousands of fans pouring into the Dover area. The Monster Mile weekend takes place May 14-16. People in the area have learned through experience to let the fans have Dover this weekend.

Dover Downs hosted its first race July 6, 1969 – a race won by King Richard Petty. He would go on to win seven Dover races in his amazing career.

Two years later, the current two-a-year schedule was put into place.

I started attending races in 1973 and didn’t miss many for the next 27 years.

In the 1970s not much attention was paid to NASCAR in Dover; getting 30,000 fans was considered a really big deal. Now the stands hold 135,000 fans.

In those days, I could stand in the pits with the pit crews, get great interviews and photographs, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott and David Pearson.

I had a collection of hundreds of NASCAR photographs, which are now cherished by a race-crazy relative.

King Richard Petty is still in the pits.

The last few races I attended turned into a media circus. While security guards kept me up from getting close and personal in the pits, TV and radio crews nearly ran me over. Of course, they had the run of the place.

The pits are filled to overflowing with people who have nothing to do with the media, but who do have friends in high places.

Newspaper photographers and reporters seem to be low on the feeding chain, so I stopped going. I guess younger reporters and photographers have nothing to compare it to, so jostling for position and enduring the constant hassle doesn’t bother them.

But I remember the good old days when any media coverage was considered a blessing.

Although it’s great to see a race in person, watching one on television is what I prefer today.

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