Ladies and gentlemen of central Virginia, start your engines. Race weekend in Richmond is upon us, and it’s got me all nostalgic about how, almost exactly one year ago, I rang in the spring NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway with my very first post about Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. Imagine my joy, having found a group that combined my love of soulful electro-pop and brightly-colored sports merch, just a short time before their revered namesake was coming to town for my favorite weekend of the year (keeping in mind of course that the weekend of the fall race is also my favorite weekend of the year). NASCAR in Richmond is a tradition that’s grown near and dear to my heart over the past half-decade, just as Dale Jr Jr has done over the course of the last 12 months.
Since that first post, I’ve gone bonkers over the group’s debut full-length, It’s A Corporate World, gone to see them in person at the Southern in Charlottesville, and gone straight to the source to see how they felt about the Detroit Pistons’ NBA draft selections. And clearly the magic hasn’t gone away, because one of the primary targets on my Record Store Day mission was the group’s We Almost Lost Detroit EP, which I was lucky enough to obtain after a long and uncomfortably sunny hour spent waiting in line outside Deep Groove. Fortunately, the ends have justified the sweaty means, as the EP includes some fantastic material, including new remixes of 3 It’s A Corporate World tracks, a cover of Sixto Rodriguez’s “I Think Of You” and, for the cherry on top of the exclusive RSD sundae, a cover of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer.”
NOW, with all due respect to the Material Girl, who has proven herself to be more than adept at muddling religious themes and ridiculous spectacle, you haven’t heard a real prayer until you’ve witnessed the invocation at a NASCAR race. Where else can you see a man of the cloth waltz up to a microphone, tell 50,00 people to bow their heads, and then thank God for Sunoco racing fuel and his smokin’ hot wife Lisa. I’m not kidding, that actually happened. The best part? Everyone loved it! And the rest of the pre-race ritual is just as overblown, from the American flag skydiver and military flyover — I’m a sucker for these; nothing complements last few chords of the national anthem like jets screaming by at low altitude — to the monstrous, day-long tailgate and crowded rows of merchandise trailers selling hats, shirts and the Denny Hamlin lounge pants that I may or may not be wearing as I type this. Did I mention you can bring your own beer into the race? After hearing all that, you may be saying to yourself, “Yeah, that sounds like some over-the-top, obnoxious fun, but c’mon… thanking God for NASCAR? That’s a little much.” Well consider this.
Last year, my wife and I had planned a weekend trip to New York City on the same weekend as one of the Richmond races. I was bummed about missing the race, but was excited to be seeing the friends we were visiting. Well, some higher power wasn’t too excited about it, and despite the fact that the weather was beautiful that Friday, and there were no major holidays taxing the air travel system, our flight was mysteriously cancelled, with no chance of getting on a later flight. The next day, there I was, sitting in the stands at RIR, drinking Coors Light and watching dudes turn left for 3 hours. Quoth the not-so-great Bill O’Reilly, “You can’t explain that.”
I may never be able to explain fully why I love going to NASCAR races so much, but I can tell you this: tomorrow afternoon, somewhere in a sea of pickup trucks blasting country music over the sounds of sizzling hot dogs and bean bags slapping cornhole boards, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr will be helping me ring in yet another Richmond race in style. Just don’t expect me to root for their namesake, especially when my boy Denny has the chance to win two in a row. Check out the title track from Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr’s Record Store Day EP below, watch the official video here, and click here to buy It’s A Corporate World on iTunes.