Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A bone-chilling evening at Elko Speedway September 22, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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SHELTERED INSIDE THE HOSPITALITY and bar area under the grandstand of Elko Speedway, I watched the storm move in, trees swaying, rain rushing race fans indoors.

After the early evening rain, fans began filing into the grandstand in the

After the early evening rain, fans began filing into the grandstand.

My husband and I had just arrived at this south metro speedway and settled inside with an evening meal, compliments of NAPA Auto Parts (Randy’s employer), when the rain arrived. I was thankful to be warm and dry, awaiting the now delayed start of the NAPA sponsored 6th annual Thunderstruck 93/11th annual Thunder Car Nationals races.

I was clueless as to the meaning of Thunderstruck and Thunder Car then and still am now. I’m not a racing enthusiast. But, given our evening out was free and I’d been to the races here only once, and years ago, I was game.

A view of trial runs, before darkness fell and photographing on-track action proved futile.

A view of trial runs, before darkness fell and photographing on-track action proved futile.

Now I remember why I haven’t been here in a long time. Racing is not my thing, especially when sitting on wet bleachers, a cold wind slicing across the speedway with the temp hovering in the high 50s. We could see our breaths. I shivered and pulled myself as deep inside my hooded sweatshirt as possible. In short, I was miserable. And I suppose that was partially my fault for failing to realize the temperature would plummet following the rain.

My husband enjoys racing. At least we remembered to bring ear plugs.

My husband enjoys racing. At least we remembered to bring ear plugs.

We watched four races, their start delayed by the wet track, before I semi pleaded with my husband to leave. And we did, at 9 p.m., long before the end of the races and the evening fireworks display and the ice bucket challenge to raise monies for ALS research.

Ear plugs of muffs are a must to protect your hearing.

Ear plugs or muffs are a must to protect your hearing.

All the while there, I attempted to interest myself in the speeding cars circling the track. I just could not get into the races.

Instead, I focused on the people:

Elko Speedway, couple

The ring bearer danced and stood by as the couple, married at Elko Speedway, was photographed.

I was as much interested in the bride as the shirt worn by the professional photographer.

I was as much interested in the bride as the shirt worn by the professional photographer.

the couple married at the speedway where the groom raced;

The ring bearer was especially interested in the NAPA truck, peering inside and trying the door.

The ring bearer was especially interested in the NAPA truck. He tried the door and peered inside.

the dancing ring bearer with the black and white checkered pillow, preschoolers clamped in sound-deadening ear muffs; a newbornish baby folded inside fleece; the woman in front of me easing into a second sweatshirt;

A quick shot of the Elko mascot.

A quick shot of the Elko mascot.

fox mascot roaming the grounds; race officials leaning over the track, arms flailing flags; guys carting buckets of ice-cradled beer cans into the grandstand.

And I wondered, how can you drink beer on an evening as blasted cold as this?

Musical entertainment is also sometimes part of the racing entertainment package. Champions Drive-In Theater is also located on the speedway grounds for outdoor movie showings.

Musical entertainment is also sometimes part of the racing entertainment package. Champions Drive-In Theater is located on the speedway grounds, too, for outdoor movie showings.

And I wondered why I was there, getting kicked in the butt by the guy behind me (no apology), sitting on rain-puddled bleachers, leaning into my husband for warmth, shivering and then shivering some more.

I distracted myself—scanned the ads plastered along the racetrack. End Zone Bar & Grill, JEGS.com, NAPA Know How, ethanol… Minnesota Congressman John Kline’s advertising presence here dominates.

con

Fans waited in lines at the concession stand, left. To the right is the bar and hospitality area under the grandstand.

For awhile it worked, this attempted diversion. When we finally exited the grandstand, warmth began returning to my too still too long body. We paused to warm ourselves at a campfire, a nice feature at this speedway. The facilities, although I have nothing with which to compare them, seem top-notch. Lines were long, though, at the concession stand.

Lots of racing merchandise inside the Speed Zone.

Lots of racing merchandise inside the Speed Zone.

We ducked inside the Speed Zone. Race fans packed this building crammed with racing merchandise. My husband spotted a $60 Elko Speedway sweatshirt. “You could have bought one of these,” he suggested. A little too late. Not that I would have purchased a racing sweatshirt anyway, but it would have cut the cold of a bone-chilling evening at the racetrack.

Sweatshirts were the attire of choice Saturday evening. for those fans smart enough to wear them to the track or purchase them at Speed Zone.

Sweatshirts were the attire of choice Saturday evening. for those fans smart enough to wear them to the track or purchase them at Speed Zone.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Have you ever been to car races? Are you a fan? Or are you, like me, simply unable to interest yourself in cars that circle round and round a track? Perhaps I need to give racing one more try, on a warm and sunny summer evening…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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25 Responses to “A bone-chilling evening at Elko Speedway”

  1. cecilia Says:

    Oh you poor thing, i have only ever been once and am more than happy never to go again, just too noisy for me! c

    • It was my choice to attend because I thought maybe, just maybe, I might enjoy the races. Had the weather not been so miserably cold, I may have possibly enjoyed them a bit. Without ear plugs, I never would have endured the races because you’re right, they are way too noisy. With a hearing loss of 70 percent in my right ear, I do not take my hearing for granted. I felt for those little kids there, especially the baby.

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    I am with you – this would not interest me much – especially in those weather conditions. On a pleasant sunny day, I might give it a chance – panning the cars racing by can be challenging to shoot.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    When we lived in NC we attended quite a few NASCAR races –mostly thanks to the generosity of friends who shared their tickets with us. It is definitely a cultural experience. 🙂 My favorite memory is of a guy walking around with an American flag as a cape (those NASCAR fans are VERY patriotic) and a hollowed out half watermelon on his head. He “might” have been partaking of adult beverages. I did enjoy going to the races—-they provide a lot of entertainment and since we lived in Race City we often saw drivers in stores and restaurants and many of our friends were involved in racing somehow. I think your experience was definitely hampered by the weather. ugh. Kind of like sitting through football games (even though I love football) in the rain and cold. Once you get cold it is nearly impossible to warm up, isn’t it?

    • Now yours is an interesting comment as I would not peg you as a race car fan. I just learned something new today. And I think you are right in that the weather hampered my experience. Even so, I don’t think I will ever be a real fan.

      I agree that patriotism seems to run strong. But what’s with the hollowed out watermelon on the head? Now that would have been a photo opp.

  4. Jackie Says:

    First and foremost I love how you and Randy support each other with your “mixed” interests, even when you have to sacrifice your comfort! I went to the Races quite often with my dad on Sunday nights in Kasson. I remember the loud roaring cars and the excitement in the grandstand as folks cheered for the drivers. I loved it then, but have no interest now.

  5. Marilyn Says:

    Very early in our marriage I decided to opt out of all sporting related observances including all racing. It just leave me totally cold, even on the warmest of days. But now, I am a people watcher and have enjoyed this race vicariously through your photos, especially the trackside bride and groom.

  6. I have never gone to car races. I once went to the Kentucky Derby, and that was kind of fun and much less noisy than motor sports. Of course, I was a poor college student, so we had infield tickets and couldn’t really even see the race as everyone crowded up to the fence, but I got to try my first (and last) mint julep.

    The racetrack wedding is interesting, not very private, but probably meaningful for those involved.

    You are a good sport to go along with your husband to the races. That’s what makes marriage work!

    • The wedding was indoors, in a hospitality area under the grandstands. But still very much public since the space is not sectioned off. Yes, I suppose given the groom is a racer, the location of the ceremony and celebration held special meaning.

  7. I haven’t gone to races, but wouldn’t mind seeing a few just for the experience. It was surprising to see that someone got married there but I guess if one of the wedding party is a race car driver, it makes sense. My daughter went to races last summer and, since she had never been before, made the mistake of wearing a sundress and sitting in the front row with her friends – all guys she knew from high school. Heh. She got a little muddy. It was a dirt track. Oops.

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    Oh Audrey, I would have been in a world of pain if I’d had to sit through that. The car racing is boring enough without adding in rain and cold. Even though the groom races there, what an odd place for a wedding and what an awful backdrop for the photos. Each to his own! I’m glad you tried to make the best of it but I think I would have preferred to sit in my car with the heater running xx

  9. chlost Says:

    Hey, I spent a lot of my younger years in Kasson, and went to the races at the fairgrounds there too, Jackie. We lived just a few blocks away, and the noise would permeate our weekend nights. The favorite was the demolition derby which was an annual event during the County Fair. Many years later, we took our children to a demo derby at the county fairgrounds near our home..they loved it. Those were on a dirt track which enhanced the show…..lots of mud all over the cars, drivers, and the front-row spectators. The cold you suffered through reminds me of being a hockey parent…..at least they had heaters above the bleachers for that….but I still froze during every game, no matter how many layers I wore.

  10. I have been to the Elko Speedway and on quiet nights lived close enough to hear the cars going around the track on race nights. Great Captures – thanks for bringing back the memories too 🙂


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