When you're a fan of the sport, seeing a race live is the ultimate experience.
It has become more expensive to attend a race, but fans still save their money and make the trip to the track.
I had that experience this past May when I went to Darlington for the Southern 500.
Being at the oldest track that NASCAR races on was an unbelievable privilege. This past weekend I had my ultimate experience at a NASCAR race.
I was in the media center with many of the major NASCAR writers and commentators. Without a doubt, it was indescribable.
In this edition of Parks Race Reactions, I'm not only going to speak about the Sylvania 300 on the track, but also in the infield.
Right away, when I made it to the track I received my credentials.
Needless to say I was a nervous wreck. This was the first time I've even been behind pit road, let alone in the media area.
But when I walked in and saw how everything was set up, my tensions began to ease.
After getting my hot pass and lanyard, I walked around looking for my seat. Lucky for me, the staff set me up at the end of the table right in front of the television and leaderboard.
It was the perfect seat.
After getting settled in, I realized that right beside me was one of the lead writers on NASCAR.com, David Caraviello.
That really set me at ease, because I was close to an experienced writer to get advice from.
After having breakfast at the cafe next door, I got as much paperwork for the race as I could. I also got to meet ESPN's NASCAR reporter, Marty Smith, who was a familiar face in the garage all weekend.
Finally, it was time to make some rounds in the garage area and pit road to see where everything was set up. Luckily, the garage entrance is right by the media center, and the first cars I saw were Jeff Gordon's National Guard/DuPont Chevrolet and his two teammates, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson.
At that point, I realized I forgot ear plugs as the teams were running the engines to get the oil circulated in the engines.
The sound of those engines was exhilarating, but just a little loud for early in the morning.
I made my way back to the media center.
It was about three hours before the race and I wanted to check out the stories heading into race day.
However, when I returned to my seat, I was met with a big surprise.
Sitting just three feet from me was the 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion, Bobby Allison. I was torn between introducing myself or not saying anything.
Finally, I decided to say hello, and he returned it with a handshake. He asked what company I was representing, and just maintained a casual conversation. Soon after, he had to leave, but what an honor.
The most unexpected, yet fun aspect, came shortly after.
A few media members were given the opportunity to assist Toyota representatives in a t-shirt toss. After signing up, I—along with two photographers—were brought to the track and to the Toyota area along turn one.
We were suprised to see that we all would be riding in the back of the Toyota Tundra monster truck.
Being a big fan of monster trucks, I enjoyed the experience and thrill of the ride. The t-shirt cannon was not working right, so the Toyota reps were forced to throw the tees like baseballs into the stands.
We exited the truck and it was almost an hour before race time.
Josh Turner was finishing his pre-race concert, and fans were clearing pit road, heading to their seats.
Following the National Anthem, invocation, and the fly over by two F-15 fighter jets, it was time to start the Chase to the Championship for 2009.
In the beginning, the race itself was not as exciting.
With the way Juan Pablo Montoya was running over the course of the weekend, everyone in the garage had their eyes on the No. 42 Target Chevrolet.
The first Chase driver to have trouble this year was Kasey Kahne. After only 66 laps, the engine in his Budweiser Dodge blew up in a cloud of smoke.
It has been a difficult week for Richard Petty Motorsports.
With the announcement of a merger between RPM and Yates Racing, driver Reed Sorenson was the one left out of the equation.
The new four-team limit in 2010 has left Sorenson without a ride. Not only that, it was released that Sorenson has been racing for a while at RPM without a salary.
Despite how it seems, Sorenson was the one who decided to race for nothing, that way he could audition for a ride next year and his crew could keep their jobs.
Quite a sacrifice, but a noble gesture on Sorenson's part.
Kahne started questioning who will be leading the team next year, as it's unclear at this point.
Is it Petty? Gillette? Yates? No one really knows.
The blown engine did not help him much as he would finish 38th, which then dropped him to last in the Chase.
The other Chase drivers had a stellar run at New Hampshire.
No doubt, the two drivers who made the most noise were Montoya and Martin.
Montoya was the driver that everyone had their eyes on.
He led the first practice session on Friday, then went out and set a track record in qualifying. On Saturday, he led both practice sessions and definitely had everyone talking.
Race day, he proved that his domination over the weekend was no fluke.
Montoya led 105 of the 300 laps, was able to pull out and really have a great car when he was in front. When he was stuck in traffic, Montoya was able to put his car where he wanted, often getting aggressive and making risky moves.
They definitely paid off as he was able to make it back to the front late and challenge for the win.
However, it was some defensive and smart driving by Martin that kept the No. 42 team from making a clean sweep of the weekend.
Martin is the sentimental favorite to win the title by many people.
And this year, I think he is also a real favorite because he has been one of the top drivers all season.
His win on Sunday extended his championship lead to 35 points, and of the remaining nine races, the only track he hasn't won at is Homestead. I said after his win at Michigan, Martin was the guy to beat for the title this year.
With his momentum and confidence, it will be hard to not favor Martin as the Chase continues.
Next up in the Chase is the "Monster Mile" in Dover.
This is a track that Martin is really good on and could possibly open up his lead more. His teammate Johnson won the spring race at the track, and currently sits second in the points.
A good run for Johnson and his No. 48 team could put him on top of the standings as he goes for a fourth-straight title.
By far, my biggest reaction to the weekend in New Hampshire was how helpful and friendly the staff was.
Having no experience in the media center, it was great to have people around that knew what to do and were willing to help out so everyone got the information right.
A big thank you to the staff of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and to the members of the media I got to meet while I was there. You made my first experience in the garage area one I will remember for years to come.