Bank of America 500 Pit Note #10 - Going the Distance
GOING THE DISTANCE – Every race weekend, Charlotte Motor Speedway plays hosts to fans from all 50 states and a dozen or so foreign countries; this Bank of America 500 weekend is no different. But the Richards family is taking it to a whole new level.
Peter Richards, his wife Linda and their three boys – Kirby (19), Toby (16) and Gavin (9) – have traveled 9,500 miles from New South Wales, Australia, to take in this weekend’s race. The Richardses made the speedway a prominent part of their five-week North American holiday, which will include stops in Los Angeles, New York City, Niagara Falls, Chicago and Las Vegas.
“We’re NASCAR fans,” said Peter Richards. “We’re always watching the races at home; they’re on there usually Sunday mornings, and it’s fun for us. It’s something to do together. My wife’s the only one who isn’t too into it. But I believe this weekend we’ve won her over, too.”
Linda Richards agreed that racing wasn’t really her forte, but shrugged and motioned to the four males surrounding her.
“I’m outnumbered,” she said. “But it’s been a lot of fun. This is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday for us.”
As such, Peter Richards wanted his family to really experience all that Charlotte Motor Speedway had to offer. So he inquired about upgrades, learning about the Bank of America 500 Pit Party, which gives fans not just a weekend pit pass, but also a full-scale pre-race party, complete with live music, concessions, racing displays and driver appearances. The clincher? One of the headline drivers is Marcos Ambrose, a fellow countryman from Tasmania, and perhaps the most obvious reason this family enjoys NASCAR racing.
“When we heard that, we were sold,” Peter Richards said.
All five Richards family members were sporting wide smiles and black-and-yellow Stanley Tools hats Friday as they toured the merchandise display lots, picking up freebies and standing in line for autographs. A stop at the Kwikset display Friday yielded another fantastic opportunity: Ambrose was signing autographs for 75 lucky fans at 2 p.m. The family scored tickets and waited in line to meet its racing idol.
As the youngest Richards approached Ambrose, the driver asked for the youngster’s name. When he heard the lad’s accent, he asked where they were from, then thanked them for coming so far to watch a race.
“That was great; he seems like such a good fellow,” Peter Richards gushed after meeting Ambrose. “This whole holiday’s just been getting better and better. Every time we think it can’t get better, it does.”
And they haven’t even gotten to the Pit Party yet.
WALLENDA WALKS THE LINE – It will be the ultimate pre-race stunt: Nik Wallenda, of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family, will traverse more than 750 feet from behind the Charlotte Motor Speedway frontstretch grandstands to a crane behind Victory Circle, all on a 5/8-inch tightrope, during Saturday’s pre-race festivities presented by Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
It won’t be the first time the eyes of the world will be on him during a death-defying stunt. Wallenda became a household name this summer when he performed an 1,800-foot tightrope walk across Niagara Falls, an event seen worldwide by an estimated one billion viewers.
But Saturday’s stunt will be so thrilling and awe-inspiring that one international news station has traveled all the way from France to cover his latest exploit. TF1, France’s largest network, will be in Charlotte shadowing Wallenda for a profile on their news magazine show "7 à 8."
Nik Wallenda is not the first of his family to perform at CMS. In 1986, Nik’s elders walked from the grandstands down to pit road during a circus-themed pre-race show.
“I’m honored to continue the great Wallenda family tradition performing at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Nik Wallenda said. “The speedway has always set the bar for pre-race entertainment and excitement, and I’m looking forward to raising that bar to new heights this year.”