It's Saturday night and I say to my 7 year old son, "You want to go to a stock car race with me tomorrow? It isn't NASCAR, it's ARCA and it's about as close to NASCAR as you can get without it being NASCAR."
No reply. He pretends that if he didn't hear the question he won't have to answer it - classic 7 year old (or is it male?) mentality.
He hates NASCAR by the way.
Move on to bed time.
It is my wife's turn to put our son to bed - I get our daughter. My wife says to our son, "Well are you going to the race tomorrow with Daddy?"
My wife smiles, then says, "Great! Then you can go shopping with me and Grandma instead!" She kisses him goodnight and goes to leave when she is suddenly stopped by a tiny, almost inaudible voice.
"I'd rather go to the race with Daddy than shopping."
My wife, bless her heart, turns, smiles and says, "You mean you'd rather go to a stock car race than shopping?" trying to notch up the score a bit.
"You and Grandma will probably try on underwear or something," was the deadpan score equalizing reply.
Move onto Sunday.
Time to get dressed. I ask my son if he wants to wear one of his NASCAR shirts - he only has two to choose from - Dale Jr or Dale Sr. He just owns the shirts by the way, he does not wear them.
"O.K., but there will be other kids there, and they will be wearing racing shirts for sure," I explain. " Tell you what, you can take it off as soon as we get home if you want."
He picked the Dale Sr. shirt.
We get to the track, Cayuga Motor Speedway, pick up my complimentary tickets at the ticket booth from Steve and Charlie, who happen to be the announcers for the race, along with my Media Pass - one of the perks of writing a racing column for the local newspaper.
We walk along the display alley, and get something to eat.
I'm watching him as he eats his hotdog with ketchup, and I think that what he really is doing is eating ketchup with a hotdog.
We hit one of the merchandise vendors and he picks out a small diecast of Dale Earnhardt Sr to buy because I told him he could only have one souvenir along with a program.
"You know, you can pick out any car you want. You don't have to pick that one because it is Daddy's favourite driver," I say.
"Ya, but this is a cool car and I know the driver even though he is dead."
"There's a Dale Jr car with Mountain Dew on it," I say as I point to it.
"No I want this one."
Later I realize it is the 10th anniversary CoT edition of Dale's Daytona 500 victory. The one I said I wouldn't buy because it was a money grab. Although, to be honest, I still would have bought it for him even if I knew, because it was for him and not for me and he doesn't understand the politics behind its manufacturing.
Next we go into the media tower to meet Charlie and Steve. Cool guys to say the least, they even took the time to talk to my son and ask him some questions. Much appreciated guys, since I know how busy you were.
We then move on to the autograph session. We got to go out onto the track and meet the drivers by their cars.
My son got to meet 9-time ARCA Champ, Frank Kimmel, Former F1 ace Scott Speed, and Roush/Fenway developmental driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr before the skies opened up.
My son was all shy around those guys, but each and every driver we went to treated him and every other kid with great respect. I was impressed.
ARCA then moved the autograph session to a big tent, and that is where he got to meet James Hylton. That was cool. You should have seen my son's face when I told him that James raced against Dale Earnhardt at one time. He was impressed.
After the autograph session we sought shelter under the grandstand and hung out for a bit.
The rain stopped, we took our seats, had a good time talking and watching the track drying process. He had a lot of questions.
We then watched the race, and had several 'pee' breaks.
I noticed that he wanted to go 'pee' during long green flag periods.
You know, he held it together pretty good. It wasn't until the last 50 laps that he started to ask when it was going to be over. That is a lot longer than I thought he would last let me tell you.
But I manged to re-focus him by telling him to watch the #60 car of Patrick Sheltra because he was spun out while leading the race and that he will charge through the field because he was mad. He then watched Sheltra's progress with more interest, until he pulled off the track due to some mechanical problem. By that time we were both watching Scott Speed get back on the lead lap after being 5 laps down. That was impressive, and my son even thought so.
After the race I took him down to see the victory lane celebration. He thought it was funny how the team members all changed hats and then had their picture taken over and over again.
He laughed when I told him that it is sometimes called "the hat dance".
We then met up with Charlie and my son took an awesome picture of Charlie and I - Steve was still in the broadcast booth doing his thing, so he missed the photo op of a lifetime.
When I asked my son if he had a good time he replied, "Yes" and I left it at that.
The real surprise was when we got home and he told Mommy about everything that happened with great enthusiasm - really - including the girl who was sitting sort of in front of us in a bikini top with tattoos on her back of early 1970's Chryslers and had a bad case of plumber's butt. I thought he didn't see her as she was a few rows below us and to the side a bit - man he sees everything.
He even went and got all of his NASCAR hotwheels cars that he never plays with and played with them before, during, and after supper.
But the best part of the day, for me anyway, came after bed time.
My son comes down the stairs at about 10:30 pm, way past his bedtime let me tell you. and before I can ask the mandatory, "What are you doing out of bed?" question he says, "Daddy I just wanted to tell you that I really wasn't looking forward to going to the races with you today. I thought it would be boring, but I didn't want to go shopping with Mommy so I went with you. But I had a great time, it was fun and I got to meet some famous drivers like that Speed guy and the guy who raced Dale Earnhardt. I'm glad I went."
He then hugged me, turned, and went back up the stairs leaving me speechless, which is very hard to do, just ask anyone who knows me.
I then looked at my wife and was about to ask her if she put him up to that, when she read my mind and said that she didn't put him up to that before I could even ask her the question. We've been together too long.
Before I went to bed I went and checked on him as I always do and found him asleep with all of his track swag and NASCAR Hotwheels. He was still wearing his Dale Sr shirt too.
Picture credits: Me, except the one of Charlie and I that would be my son.
Picture 1: Scott Speed on left and Dexter Bean on right
Picture 2: James Hylton
Picture 3: Myself and Charlie from On Pit Row