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Parking the Whole Lot

Be it a test of technology and driving skill down the drag strip or an opposite lock and flat out run round and round a road course, the quest for me is always the same. The grand connection. The one thing I look for more than any other when I go to any kind of automotive event is what sort of rides are out in the parking lot. Sure, the cars and drivers out on the track or the painstakingly restored rides out on the grass are certainly bitchin', but the rides out in the parking lot say a great deal about the folks in the stands or walking about amongst the show cars. These parked machines are the indicators of what kinds of rides the fans can afford and truly identify with. The cars that folks show up in for the event are really the canary in the coal mine, so to speak.

I hearken back to the first filed memory of any super bitchin' vehicle in a parking lot I have at any car-type event. Bright green, with a huge wing, and sporting a bulbous nose cone, this ride forever etched in my memory was the Plymouth Superbird. I'm almost positive this was at the New England Dragway. I'm definitely positive this was a very long time ago. I was ironically at a drag race on my birthday this year when I looked around the parking lot and saw nary a Superbird. In fact, I saw no pre-1976 rear drive V-8 cars of any kind. There were more than a few out on the track, but in the parking lot? Not one. Worse than this was that there were literally less than a dozen spectators in the grandstands despite some great racing action.

Out of all the vehicles that could end up in that parking lot, the one parked directly next to my 300-dollar "mechanic's special" commuter was certainly a sleeper. Beige in color and unsung in stature, the ‘80s era K-car LeBaron sported a large TURBO emblem on each front fender. While I have seen a few very quick turbo K-car variants out on the drag strip there were none running on this day. A pity, really. The other rides between the lines? Mostly pick-em-up trucks likely used to haul gear or the dozen spectator butts out to the track, and a smattering of non-descript sedans.

Sad, I thought, that nobody drove out in their Volare wagon to root for their favorite F-body Stock Eliminator racer. A bit melancholy that not even a sippin' six-powered four-door Dart driver came out to cheer for more powerful A-body wheelmen.

In stark contrast to this sparsely attended drag race was recent attendance of the Drift vs. Grip and previous drifting events I've managed to hit over the last few years. Track action had all manner of vehicle brands and models, engine configurations, and drivers tossing it up for a packed grandstand full of rabid fans. A walk around the parking lot revealed a great number of driven in rides that matched or at least mimicked those out on the tarmac. A view of the midway revealed fans with armloads of coilovers and other associated parts.

This is the fan connected to the motorsport. Seeing the car you drove to the event in defying gravity at the hands of your hero out on the track is what being a race fan is all about. A distinct lack of accord between vehicles on the track and in the parking lot is certainly the canary at the bottom of the cage. Me? I'm keeping my eyes out for a mint K-car turbo.  

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