F is for Fast, and Food (but not Fast Food.)

I did not grow up watching NASCAR, or any racing for that matter. I did not grow up eating barbeque, either. I grew up in Maryland, and we watched football and baseball and maybe some hockey and basketball. The only racing was horse racing. BBQ was what you had while you were cooking the meat, not the end result.

And then I moved to North Carolina. I first got here in 1980, when I went to college, so there still wasn’t any racing or barbeque in my life. After graduation, I stayed. (Except for the lost years of 1986-88 when I was kidnapped and taken to New England and New Jersey.) Still, no NASCAR. None of my friends watched it, and we all thought it was sort of “redneck.” I didn’t even go to see “Days of Thunder” at the movies. Meanwhile, I lived within a two-hour drive of some great famous tracks: Richmond, Martinsville, Charlotte, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro.

And still not much BBQ. Though I’d have it from time to time when a friend had a “pig pickin’.”

This is what happens when you start dating a NASCAR fan. You either get it, or you don’t. My first live race was in Charlotte in the fall of 2008. It was kinda fun, but I wasn’t impressed. Turns out I don’t like superspeedways so much.

A year later, we decided to go to Martinsville on the spur of the moment. It was a beautiful day, it was a 5/8 track, and I was hooked.

Since then, we’ve been to Martinsville again a dozen times (don’t even get me started on the hot dogs), Charlotte a few (including the instant classic Roval race), Richmond, Rockingham (for 2 truck races), Darlington, and Daytona. We’re going to Bristol this year, baby. I’m actually sad that I never got to see a race at North Wilkesboro.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte is a no-brainer for fans, but did you know there is a tiny place called The Winston Cup Museum? It takes less than an hour to see everything, unless you want to spend some time playing Pac-Man or Galaga for free. Ever since I’ve found out about it, I’ve felt the obligation to go, partially because when I was very young my mother worked for RJ Reynolds and I could very well have ended up growing up in central North Carolina and going to lots of races for free since Winston was the sponsor for so long.

We went there today, but not before we ate lunch at Lexington Barbecue. How good was that, you ask? We brought a pound home with us. Go there, you won’t be sorry.

It was a good day.

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