(April 26, 2016)—A stone’s throw from West Albuquerque’s rolling sand dunes is the Sandia Speedway, home to a completely different culture and crowd of mechanically-oriented desert souls, wearing grease-laden mesh suits and talking speed. It’s the gateway to NASCAR & Indy 500 framework, it’s where aspiring drivers, young and old, practice and prepare for their huge following to NASCAR & Indy speed lanes; it’s where fanatics live among others devoted to the nomadic subculture that is speedway racing.
I was provided insight of this eccentric culture by a 40-year veteran, my Uncle Russ, whom, by the way is of the gentry and celebrity stratum at the famed Sandia Speedway; a small team of enthusiasts whose blood runs deep within the rococo ferocity of hand painted stock cars and wingless warriors (aka sprint cars). In explaining the energy of the place, my Uncle Russ, between chuckles, said “You know, it’s interesting; after a heated race, you’ll see a commotion of fists-to-cuffs between rival drivers, but shortly after, the same scrappers will be asking to borrow each other’s tools or expensive steering components for the next race.”
What’s more is there is this incredible sense of undeniable tribal kindness among those who congregate here. Aside from their mechanical savviness, these are people of nomadic vivacity, individuals who follow the beat of the sun and push of strong tailwinds, allergic to static environments, forever moving like the speed of cruisers and sprint cars crafted by their very hands.
To those much like my unknowing and inexperienced self, it’s premature to consider speedway racing to be monotonous or verbose. What soon becomes very obvious is the liveliness of action that occurs behind the scenes, during the construction of each roaring vehicle, the gripping openness of the men and women racers, the magnetism of the cheering crowd. It’s at this point one realizes that the race itself isn’t what arrests speedway fans with fun and intrigue- it’s the culture and people that cultivate this environment and the excitement of experience, urbanity and skillful mechanical rhythm that they bring.