Race weekend is not just a 96-hour stretch of time. It is not just the hours and days and backyard mega-parties surrounding the Greatest Spectacle in American Sports. It is a MENTALITY. A philosophy, really. It is a way of goddamn life, albeit not a terribly healthy or wise one. Race or no race, parties or no parties, I’m not missing the chance to wear my fanciest Jose Cuervo crop top and a 1979 Larry Bird mustache just because we’re quarantined. No way.
We just need to be creative about it. The path through Race Weekend, after all, is paved with poor decisions, not realism.
And so Race Weekend starts NOW, kids. Fetch me my trusty Carb Day Crocs from the safe. This is how it’s going down this year, in my mind’s eye—which, not unimportantly here, is on the brink of madness.
Noon – Fires a WWII cannon in the backyard, signaling to the neighborhood and God Himself that some serious shit is about to go down. The kids are dressed in Keystone Light boxes and various golf visors, my wife is wearing a way-too-small Tweety Bird bikini and some Oakley wraparounds. They are all greatly annoyed, but so be it. This is my time. I’m in charge, for once.
“Alexa, play some 38 Special real loud!”
[shotgun 2 beers]
The world is healing itself. Or at least my world is. The kids appear genuinely frightened.
2 p.m. – I make the older kids compete for who can change the 2-year-old’s diaper the quickest. It’s as close to a Pit Stop Competition as we’re going to get. Winner gets a Chick-Fil-A milkshake. I don’t really pay attention to it, though, as I eat 58 Jello shots under an elm tree and prepare myself for the MAIN COURSE.
3 p.m. – THE MILLER LITE CARB DAY CONCERT!!! I made a nine-hour playlist many weeks ago containing only the greatest hits of this noble gathering—past, present, and future. Just wonderful, wretched garbage music that fuels all Carb Day grossness: Stone Temple Pilots … Barenaked Ladies … Florida Georgia Line … The BoDeans … Eddie Money … Journey … Kid Rock … Hanson … Poison, and so forth and so on. It is playing at ear-splitting levels. It is a bitchin’, socially non-distant moshpit of the MIND—a make-believe moshpit of one, but only because my family has long since gone inside, off napping or paying bills or doing whatever it is sane people do on Carb Day. Whatever. I RAWK with the REO Speedway memories of Carb Days past, with a smile on my face and a sunburn in my heart, until I fall asleep in a thicket of ivy under the deck.
3 a.m. – Wake up and go inside. To bed.
11 a.m. – Don’t go to some kid’s birthday parade. This is not a day for parades. It is a day for spiritual and physical healing … and also securing your Coke Lot territory, which will have to be a swath of mud near the wood pile in the backyard this year. Very well then. It’s nearly GO TIME, kids.
1– 5:59 p.m. – Rest. Reflect. Hydrate. Pray, out of habit. Fashion a chainmail armor suit from empty Coors Light cans, also out of habit. Eat a carb-heavy meal.
6 p.m. – The kids and I pitch our tents out back. I regale them with fabulous tales of Coke Lots past—the comaraderie and the stabbings and how in 2003 or 2004 a group of innovators in matching Svedka Vodka basketball jerseys built a four-story Splash Mountain replica out of stolen copper gutters and jelly. The kids seem genuinely intrigued and/or horrified. This goes on for hours.
Then the sun begins to set behind the garage. Darkness grows, as does their worry. The sounds of a neighbor kid playing “Hungry Like the Wolf” on a violin come wafting softly through the evening haze. This is as normal as life has felt in ages.
8 a.m. – We survive the Coke Lot night. I wake the kids up from the tent with the military bugle call. Except instead of a bugle, I use a 400-watt JBL speaker. And instead of that military wake-up song, I blast “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” which is the wake-up song you hear in heaven, I bet. It gets the job done.
We meander around a bit for a few hours, make six cubic yards of omelets, and put on the WIBC coverage of whatever race they’re going to play. Maybe it’s the 2006 race, when Sam Hornish Jr. dunked on Marco Andretti’s face down the front straightaway. Hopefully it’s 2013, when Tony Kanaan won. But it hardly matters, because it’s not the same. Not even close. How could it be? The entire Race Weekend way of life is centered around that giddy trip to the track, by car or bike or a 200-horsepower motorized cooler. It is meeting up with old friends and new stories during the calm before the storm, when the day’s possibilities seem endless and you’re not yet DEFCON-1 dehydrated.
There is no calm this year, obviously, because there is no storm. Just a radio broadcast—which will have to do. And with the right mentality, it will. Kind of.