Holy moly, was I shocked by what I experienced at Seekonk Speedway this weekend.

I haven't seen race cars here since I was seven years old and have very little memory of any of it other than the fireworks. I figured that seeing it as a kid was enough and not much has changed in 30 years.

Yet there I was, watching the sport in real life through my jaded, grown-up eyeballs alongside the "car guys" in my family – and it was amazing.

Here were the three biggest takeaways from my night out at the track:

First, what on earth is going through the minds of people who enter the spectator race? The spectator drag race is the precursor to the "real" race, where any brave soul with a license and registration can enter their vehicle into the race and hope for a win.

I wish I had a fraction of the confidence and all of the driving skills of the people who enter their sedans and other old clunkers into this race. Personal injury lawyer commercials have me believing that a car wreck could leave me with irreparable back injuries and land me on the disabled list for life. But here are guys (and gals) pulling up to the pit with their entry fee and registration in hand, ready to tear it up and have a good time.

These spectator race car drivers don’t live in fear. They race these totally normal cars, put on their totally normal seat belts, drive until they see the checkered flag, and then go home. It was probably the most exciting part of the night.

Secondly, I had to stop myself from saying out loud, “I think he was texting and driving” as one car whizzed past us. That’s right. I saw someone with just one hand on the wheel and my first thought was immediately, “Oh, this guy must be texting and driving.” Girl, you are at the race track. That person is shifting their car into some other gear. These drivers are absolutely, in no way shape or form, concerned about their phones or texting.

This thought process highlights how common it is to see one hand on the wheel and the other on the phone these days. Not even for a split second did I stop to consider the absurdity of a race car driver texting while racing. I even marveled at how, despite how close the cars were to each other at such high rates of speed, the braking was impeccable and there were countless near-misses throughout the night.

As my brother kindly pointed out, “That is what happens when you pay attention while driving." Again, I’ve grown so accustomed to distracted drivers that this very simple act was mind-blowing.

Lastly, the stands were full of real, live kids – and I mean that in a kids-being-kids kind of way like you’d see at a circus. They had their boxes of popcorn, their mini checkered flags, their earmuffs to muffle the noise, and everyone was genuinely having fun. The kids were not just five and under; kids of all ages were in the stands just being kids with their eyes glued to the track. Kids weren’t looking down at their phones, making TikToks, or wandering around in big groups. It was just kids with their families and friends, enjoying the company they were in, and rooting for whoever had the best looking, fastest car.

I think for so long I assumed that I'd gone to the speedway enough as a little kid that I didn't need to go again, but I was wrong. You don’t need to be a motorhead or a race car guy to understand what is going on – for the most part, anyway. I still asked 100 questions about the flag routine because, wow, what an art form that was. Anyone can go and have a good old fashioned race car-watching time. And yes, you can buy a cold beer if that suits you.

Add Seekonk Speedway to your family’s summer bucket list while it’s still wholesome, still inexpensive, and let them be excited by what real driving looks like.

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