South Boston Speedway, 1988

I smell the charred pan fried
edges of a bologna burger and the
burnt rubber tires of an amateur
race car driver spinning out in
Turn 3 and the body stench
and beer sweat pouring out
of a race fan sitting next to me.

There’s a urinal trough for the
bladders of men, young and old,
to be emptied and I wonder if
they still make those anymore
and how different the speedway
is now all these years later.

Did it go corporate and water down
its secret sauce or is it still
as rebellious and full of blood,
drunken women, and hellfire
as it once was? I hope the latter,
but I can only assume the former.

All good things must die
(or succumb to the modern
day constraints of brand
marketing and insurance liabilities)
I reckon.

My dad went to the first ever race
at South Boston Speedway when
he was just a kid: August 10, 1957;
back when it was little more than
a quarter mile dirt track. Before
he died, he went to the
50 Year Celebration.

I shut my thumb in the car door
is probably why I remember this
particular night in 1988 so
vividly now. Robbie came with
us. I was so excited that I forgot
to remove my hand from the
doorframe after Robbie got in
the backseat.

We hadn’t even left our
driveway in Phenix.

I could feel the pulsing heartbeat
in my swollen thumb; and
it was hot as fire and throbbed
like some cartoon character
the whole way there until
the cars lined up and revved
their engines and all was

Pain has a way of
pushing a memory to the front
of your brain, even years later.

On the way out, my dad
let Robbie and me buy
relatively overpriced
Richard Petty straw hats,
which half fell to pieces
by the time we made it home.

We already had the sunglasses
and our dads already had the

And I’m just not sure
you can replicate a
memory like that nowadays,
of South Boston Speedway, 1988.


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