Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Fans Special

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NASCAR Fans Special

Article excerpt

CONCORD, N.C. -- Every sport has its hearty fans. Green Bay

Packers fans brave blizzards. New York Yankees fans brave

muggings. Kentucky basketball fans pack an arena to watch the

new freshmen practice free throws.

None of them has anything on the bullheaded, party-happy

followers of NASCAR, who will traipse through mud, laugh at

lightning bolts and sit for hours in traffic jams that resemble

30 miles of a shopping mall parking lot at Christmas season.

For a sports writer, the only good thing about working a

late-night baseball game with a 2 1/2-hour rain delay is that

most people go home. At a NASCAR race, they don ponchos.

Despite a sporadic rain, a majority of the 160,000 spectators

who attended Sunday's Coca Cola 600 arrived at Charlotte Motor

Speedway several hours before the scheduled 6:15 p.m. start.

Virtually everyone stayed through a 2 1/2-hour rain delay that

pushed the finish to almost 1 a.m.

"We've got the most loyal, dedicated fans in any sport," said

winner Jeff Gordon, who was still chatting with reporters at

2:30 a.m. yesterday. "I remember looking out to the grandstands

early in the afternoon when it was pouring -- I mean, it was

raining so hard you couldn't see 10 feet in front of you -- and

they were sitting out there.

"They never cease to amaze me how dedicated they are to

watching a race. I think they knew they were going to see a good

race under the lights, and we put on a good one for them."

Bobby Labonte had an arm's-length lead on Ernie Irvan on the

180th of 400 scheduled laps when the P.A. announcer warned of an

oncoming storm cell and advised fans to seek cover. He might as

well have announced a special on carrot juice.

Nobody wanted to miss what could be the end of the race if the

rain held off long enough for 200 laps to be run. As it turned

out, the race was stopped just shy of the halfway mark. When it

began anew two hours and 37 minutes later at 11:18 p. …

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