Monday, April 21, 2008

Superbike Races in Birmingham, AL

The weekend of April 18-20 I attended the AMA Superbike races at Barber Motorsports Park just outside of Birmingham, AL. I tried something new this year - I volunteered to help with operations, and in turn I received quite a nice compensation package, including a weekend pass for me, another weekend pass for a friend, t-shirt, cap, fan guide, great parking, and lunch. I signed up to work Saturday morning from 7:00-12:30, a time when no racing action is going on, just qualifying, so I didn't miss too much.

I sought lodging at the last minute, so my options were either to pay a lot for something close or pay a reasonable amount for something a bit further away, and I chose the latter and stayed at the Best Western in Lincoln, about 30 miles east of the track; it turned out to be a great choice. Several other race attendees were also staying there.

I got to the track around 2:00 on Friday afternoon and checked in at the volunteer tent and got all my credentials and such and then enjoyed the afternoon watching practice action and checking out the vendors and the paddock.

I got to meet Roger Hayden and get his autograph; I was surprised to learn that he and I are pretty much the same height and build.

Jessica Zalusky was unfortunately absent due to injuries sustained while snowboarding, but Misti Hurst was there to represent the ladies.

Barber features some cool sculptures in various locations around the park:

$4/gallon gas ain't so bad:

Things wrapped up around 5:00, and I headed out to Oak Mountain State Park for a bit of hiking and to check out a waterfall out there. I got there a little before 6:00, and the park ranger said that the gates are locked at 7:00, so I had to make it a quick visit. The road leading up to the falls was steep and curvy, so it took a bit to get to the parking area, and after parking, it was about a half mile hike over rough terrain to get to the waterfall. I made it and enjoyed a quick view, then quickly made it back to the parking area to zoom back down the access road, stopping for a quick photo at an overlook. I certainly got my exercise that day!

I didn't need to stop for dinner, because I'd gotten a meal ticket when I picked up my volunteer package; I knew I'd get a meal the day I worked, but Friday's was a surprise; I enjoyed a very good and large grilled hamburger, side, and drink (worth $10) before leaving the track, so I was good for the evening. I made it to the motel around 8:00 and read for a bit and watched Numb3rs before retiring for the evening. I don't have cable or satellite at home, so you'd think I'd watch that type of programming when I have the opportunity, but I usually watch network or nothing, even when other stuff is available. Just reinforces the fact that I'm not missing much.

Saturday morning started bright and early at 5:30. I was at the track by 6:30 for volunteer check in, then off to the will-call and credentials building to start my shift. I knew that volunteering was a smart financial decision, but it turned out to be a lot of fun as well (so much so that I did another shift Sunday morning!) The two employees, Heather and Michelle, and the other volunteers were super-friendly and fun to work with, and the work itself was fun. Mr. Barber (THE Mr. Barber) stopped by to check on things; he's a very nice and down-to-earth man.

I worked until a little after noon, after which I grabbed another excellent grilled burger meal, explored the paddock some more, and caught some good racing action; there was a superbike and the formula extreme race that afternoon. Unfortunately Roger Hayden crashed pretty badly during qualifying and was unable to race; he was transported to the hospital with some broken bones. His bike tells the story pretty well:

Jason diSalvo placed second in the superbike race, his best finish ever, so that was exciting. I think the beard helped.

Mladin, diSalvo, and Tommy Hayden on the podium:

That evening I enjoyed the awesome salad bar at Jason's Deli and topped it off with coffee and ice cream. On my way back to the motel I stopped at Liberty Park off of I-459 and visited the 1/5 scale Statue of Liberty.

Back at the hotel I read a bit and watched 48 Hours Mystery on NBC (another network program, like I mentioned earlier) before calling it a night.

Sunday I was out of the hotel by around 8:00, and after stopping for breakfast made it to the track at around 9:00. The only track action was warm-up, I'd enjoyed working the will-call building, and they'd said they could use some help on Sunday morning, so I worked there until around noon. Once again, I had a great time. Plus I scored another $10 meal ticket!

I'd done quite enough of walking and exploring the paddock on Friday and Saturday, so Sunday afternoon I grabbed a spot not too far from the parking lot and will-call building and enjoyed the three Sunday races from there. It was a perfect afternoon for racing. Mladin won the superbike race, as he did on Saturday, and Tommy Hayden placed third again as he had on Saturday. Spies replaced diSalvo for the #2 spot.

By being so close to the parking lot, and by that lot being right at the entrance to the park (another volunteering perc) I was able to get out of the park and on the highway very quickly, ahead of the crowd. Made good time on the trip home and made it home around 10:30. Great weekend!


At Monday, May 05, 2008 12:07:00 AM, Blogger chkuo said...

Hey Payne, that sounds like a lot of fun. I'm so envious, particularly after missing out the ride at Deal's Gap...


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