I spent the week between Christmas and New Year visiting with family and friends up north in Fort Wayne. It wasn’t really very cold this year, but it did snow for about 30 minutes on Christmas.

During my time spent with children, grandchildren, siblings, my mother and my father-in-law, I managed to squeeze in six basketball games (all on the same day as it was part of the SAC — Summit Athletic Conference — Boys and Girls Holiday Tourney), four movies and one evening at the midget car races.

While my Alma mater, North Side, won the tourney and my grandchildren were delighted as we watched “Charlotte’s Web,” “Eragon” and “A Night at the Museum” (not all together as the youngest only went to see the pig and spider movie, while the middle went to both the pig and spider and the dinosaur coming alive movie, and the oldest only went to see the flying dragon movie — the fourth was an adult trip with all three children and one of my sisters to “Blood Diamond,” not a very Christmasy show) were fun times, it was the miniature car races that really caught my fancy.

It could be because I’d never been to this escape into small car land as my late husband and his father used to go without me tagging along. This time, I gathered up my father-in-law and treated him to a night at the races and a chance to meet Tony Stewart. Yes, the Tony Stewart of NASCAR fame. He wasn’t just at the races; he was racing.

There were 5,000 fans packed into one of the exhibit halls at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. As we were arriving, the fans from the Notre Dame hockey game were leaving and the fans for the Komet hockey (farm team for the NHL) game were arriving. That meant that I was parking about a mile from the entrance.

After arriving at the arena, I realized it was all worth it. These were my kind of people. By that, I mean there weren’t many under 200 pounds and only a few under the 300 mark. Yes, it made for a tight fit, but it was worth it to not feel out of place in a skinny world.

Once we settled in, we realized how fortunate it was that I bought our tickets early. Not only were they sold out, but we had seats in the middle of a row. You might think “what’s so great about that?” Let me tell you. These people could put away the beer. The $4 a cup price tag didn’t deter them in the least. They were up and down all evening, for as you know, no one really buys a Budweiser, they just rent it. After the first few trips to first the brewery, then the bathroom, you’d think they’d put two and two together and figure out the $4 drinks were not only putting a hole in their pocket, but pressure on their bladder.

There were also lots of children there being indoctrinated into the church of NASCAR. From the 2-year-old in the bright orange Tony Stewart shirt to the 16-year-old at the end of our row who was working hard to reach the 200 pound range, these were race car freaks. During the first heat, there were six crashes and one car on fire. I knew right then this was a different world I’d wandered into.

The very fact that we were inside led to several physical problems. All the doors, vents and fans were open and on so a build up of fumes wasn’t too bad, but by the time we left after the last race, my eyes were stinging and I needed that mile walk to the car just to get them refocused.

One thing about this very non politically correct group was the lack of diversity. All the faces were white. There wasn’t a black, Hispanic or Asian in the bunch. I’m not sure why, but it appears that NASCAR and affiliated groups are a Caucasian passion. It could be the beer.

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