NASCAR fans enjoy prerace anticipation in Kentucky Speedway's rain-dampened infield

raretakis@herald-leader.com, tlashbrook@herald-leader.comJune 29, 2013 

SPARTA — The weather dampened activities at Kentucky Speedway as fans waited for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400, which was ultimately postponed until noon Sunday because of rain. Still, racegoers enjoyed the festive atmosphere of the infield.

The day started with sun, but by mid-afternoon, rain forced fans to take cover. Traffic slowed due to the showers, but it still moved steadily — much improved from the major traffic holdups two years ago.

Early in the afternoon, between drinking beer, eating hotdogs and touring the pits, people lined the fence watching for NASCAR crew members to pass by.

Standing in the pathway of the pit crews, Corey Adams of Foster wore a homemade anti-Kyle Busch T-shirt.

"I'm not a Kyle Busch fan," Adams said. "He don't treat his fans like he should."

Adams, who was rooting for Dale Earnhardt Jr., wanted the Kyle Busch crew to sign his shirt. His tactics were a hit with other fans who watched him heckle the Busch team. One crew member actually signed the shirt and laughed as he posed for a picture.

Before the rain, fans watched lumberjack competitions and saw roller derby teams battle on the pavement. Animal Planet's Turtleman made an appearance, but a pre-race concert by Billy Currington was canceled due to the weather.

People in the RV section of the infield went about their day as if they were still comfortably at home. Some walked their dogs, went for a morning jog or relaxed in inflatable pools.

Among the RV crowd, Jerry Burns of Milford, Ohio, sat with friends outside a renovated school bus.

"It fits the Southern style better," Burns said of his bus compared with the surrounding RVs. An umbrella hung off the side of the gray bus, shading a foldout table and flat-screen TV. The bus has room for six people and is equipped with a shower, couch and beds.

Burns described the Kentucky Speedway atmosphere as relatively calm compared with that of other racetracks he's been to. He and his friends have been going to races for the past seven years, he said, but this was their first time in Kentucky.

The camaraderie of the infield is what draws fans back. Neighbors are quick to lend a hand, from loaning generators to filling up inflatable pools.

"We are just rednecking it up," said Tommy Nielsen of Fort Knox. Nielsen stood outside his camper under its canopy, gazing approvingly at his setup. A blue and white inflatable pool sat to one side next to a homemade sign with arrows pointing in various directions, representing where his group was from.

Nielsen and his wife, Carla, shared the RV with his friends Luke and Jaemi Hemphill, their three sons and their dog. Nielsen said the infield will go crazy after the race.

In 2011, Nielsen attended a NASCAR race during a 14-day vacation from Army duty in Afghanistan.

"It's a big family — NASCAR," he said. "We help each other. It's just a bunch of folks doing what we love to do."

Rachel Aretakis: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @heraldleader

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