One thing that you need to know about dirt track racing that should be obvious but was apparently not apparent to me — you will get dirty while you're out at the track. Especially if you're prone to accidents. And walk across a muddy track. And yes, I'm prone to accidents. There are two dirt tracks in our coverage area — one near Waynesboro called Eastside Speedway and another in Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge Speedway. I went to Eastside without any issues — got pictures, got names, had an overall great time. I spent most of my time in the pit, which is outside of the track, or walking to the inside of the track where many of the pit crews stood to watch their drivers race.
Natural Bridge was a little different though — most of the pit is inside the actual track itself. Cory Mull, our new sports reporter, and I got there early, before the races started, to talk to people and mill about. Before the races start, a large water truck douses the dirt track in gallons of water, making it tacky and muddy to make it safer for the drivers. And unsafe for me, apparently, crossing it obliviously.
I'm pretty sure I crossed that track immediately after the water truck had gone by. And, because I had been to Eastside and crossed that track without any problems, I didn't anticipate the insanely slick conditions that the track was in, due to the large amount of water that had just been dumped on it with no cars to pack it down.
So, I crossed the track with Cory. And didn't get far. My feet came out from under me, clad in completely traction-less Toms shoes, and I landed on my ass, camera bag barely cushioning my fall. Once I was down, I did not know how I would get up. I knew my shoes were not going to help my situation, but figured now that I knew how bad it was, I'd be a bit more careful. So, I got up, only to take one step and be back where I was, on my ass, in front of drivers and pit crews and the racing fans and track employees. And yeah, covered in mud.
I decided the only way I was going to get across was, somehow, to take off my shoes and, like, dig my toes into the mud track to provide some traction. A track employee ran over to help and him and Cory basically took my mud-soaked arms and led me across, as I practically skated on my feet to the other side. So, I put my mud-covered feet back in my mud-covered shoes, accepted some towels from some really sweet drivers, brushed off my ego, and worked for the next three hours covered in mud.
Besides my muddy accident, I had a great time at the tracks. Cory and I worked to find out how safe the dirt tracks were after a famous NASCAR driver, Jason Leffler, had a fatal accident on one in New Jersey in June. We found out that most accidents are caused by aggressive drivers and people that hold grudges, or mechanical failures, like in Leffler's case. Or poor shoe choices and walking across a dirt track covered in mud. And in that case, the only casualty was a now very muddy camera bag and a ruined polka dot shirt.
Cory wrote a great story about the very complicated issue of dirt track safety. Be sure to check it out.