'Barbwire

Postcards from the edge of NASCAR's infield

Beer in hand, ol' Pete took off down the infield road, an entourage following in his wake, one of whom pulled a red wagon with a cooler full of reloads. The night air resonated with his battle cries: "Ooooweeee! I'm hot!" "Ooooweeee! It's gonna be a hot one tonight!" "Just say NO! to Tabasco! Say YES! to Texas Pete!"

I lost Pete at tony Turn 4, at the karaoke stage. One minute he was doing the Electric Slide, the next he was gone.

The karaoke stage— the best and biggest party of the night— was organized by Joe McKenzie and his pals. Joe is a 62-year-old real estate broker in Charlotte, and he loves to party. "My wife Pat and I have gone to as many as 22 races a year," he boasted, "but we cut back some."

Joe was the MC. He held court behind the microphone, wearing a billed cap with a glans penis for a crown. ("They'll let any dickhead be an MC!") Sporadically, he directed the crowd into a line dance or the macarena. It was wild, man.

Oh yeah. Dale Jarrett won the UAW-GM Quality 500. It took over five hours to complete the race. There were 11 caution flags, and one red-flag total stoppage that lasted almost an hour, because the sewer line out by Highway 29 backed up and overflowed onto the racetrack. There were six wrecks, one involving a dozen cars. All of them were on Turn 2.

The NAPA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, held the first weekend in November, is the final race of the Winston Cup Series. The weather was cold and rainy; even worse, the crowd didn't hold its booze too well and turned surly. The parties were small and clannish. It was lame, man.

Except for the party thrown by Stan from Daytona and Dr. Dave from Dayton. The interior of their tent featured outdoor carpeting, ferns, easy chairs, a table and a TV in the dining area, and a camp heater that kept things toasty. They were assembling the hot tub, and invited me to join them later.

The first person I saw at the party was karaoke king Joe McKenzie, in his dickhead hat.

Dr. Dave's partner, Nurse Vickie, had laid out quite a spread, especially chocolate mousse balls by David Glass she'd ordered from Balducci's. Dr. Dave mixed up his traditional batch of Purple Penises in a small plastic garbage can. The "secret" concoction contained 151 proof rum, vodka, and curaçao. Everyone had to chug from Dr. Dave's Purple Penis Dispenser till it was empty. Longtime nabob neighbors rotated in and out of the hot tub. A grand time was had by all.

As for the Napa 500, it was worse than Charlotte. The race started at 12:40 p.m. and rain stoppages delayed it for over six hours. Of the 160,000 fans present for the start, less than half were around when the abbreviated race was completed near 11 p.m. Jeff Gordon, the driver fans love to hate, placed first, his 13th win of this season, tying a modern-era record set by King Richard Petty in 1975. He had already clinched the Winston Cup Championship for the third time in five years.

The morning after the race, thousands of rhubarbs lined up in the rain for the annual free "Breakfast of Champions." Johnny Mack and the Finish Line crew had been up all night preparing eggs, grits, sausage biscuits, regular biscuits, bacon, and links.

A lonely Keebler elf stood at the back of the overflow garage, wiggling his little fingers to no one, while Tony the Tiger was mobbed in the main garage. After Jeff Gordon made his brief, obligatory appearance, the rhubarbs filed out, toting all the freebies they could handle.

As I made my way to the main kitchen to say goodbye to me wild John boyo, the Keebler elf was still standing all alone, wiggling his little fingers.

When I told this to the Deli Lama, he looked me in the eyes and said, "Hell, man. You know them elves don't like to be touched."

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