Story and photo by Rhonda Beck. 

(I wrote the following commentary about ten years ago when I was first starting to report about local motorsports. As I was rereading it, I thought that most of the things still rang true today and correlated with NASCAR’s current stepped-up highlighting of home tracks. I’ve dabbled in poetry as well and “Dust Circles” came about due to some of the same experiences. Although certain health issues in recent years continue to affect how I can work, I recognize that just like a race, life is full of changes and challenges. Sometimes one presses the brake pedal, other times runs steady with the group, or finally may decide it’s time to get on the throttle to make a pass. We each try to figure out what is best, not get hard on ourselves when a choice doesn’t work out as we’d think it should, and keep on trying)

“Dust Circles – a Poem”
Micro sprints and open wheels
Legends rev, tires pile
Views of pits down the hill
Chain-link fence, small child’s smile

Water truck, fanned-out spray
Settles dust, tames the clay

Hot laps, meetings, ratchets, air
Anthems, helmets, gear galore
Final prayers, time to go
Rookies, stocks, late models roll

Flag is green, yellow waves
Just a flat, backstretch saves
Then a wreck, upside down
“Driver okay!”
Cheers abound

Candies fly, from on high
Slushies, now pink lemonade
Time to eat, hunger call
Treats, homemade
You guys, y’all

Up on the wheel
Renegades, know the feel

Night of circles
Hoist that trophy
Victory lane

Local Racing Fever 

For those who’ve never experienced local racing, a few thoughts…
Always an avid sports fan, athlete and coach, but definitely a newcomer to dirt track racing, I was instantly caught up in the atmosphere at East Lincoln Speedway and Carolina Speedway where I did most of my first reporting.

There’s a combination of humming engines and white-noise relaxation, mixed with adrenaline-fueled moments (crashes, flips, loose parts, side-by-side and two-to-three-wide racing). There’s that feeling of nature while sitting in the night air, walking across the clay and being showered with a bit of dirt (depending on where you sit). The various divisions and different types of cars—legends, sprints, stock fours, late models, super late models, etc. are hard to keep straight at first, but easier to recognize on each visit.

Busyness abounds in the pits with people of all ages working on engines and fenders, checking air pressure, changing tires and finally kicking back and relaxing with friends and family. Sitting in fold-out chairs or simply on the cement stoops, drivers’ fans are recognized when their cheers ring out across the grandstands as well as from the gear they wear. The sight and smell of bologna sandwiches, hotdogs, popcorn and other great concessions abound.

Officials busily skirt on and off the track on four-wheelers. Others are found in places like the flag stand and inspection sites. And the night wouldn’t be the same without caution-fueled music sounding out from the loudspeakers, plus the announcer conducting interviews and doing play-by-play of the racing action. Finally, one realizes that each visit rewards the fan with a slightly different scenario…some different car numbers and designs, a few more favorite drivers to cheer for, and new and old winners in victory lane.