PHOENIX — Diane and Sandy MacLaren think they’ve driven 33,000 miles this year.
It could be more or less, they’re really not sure. They lost track somewhere around Martinville Raceway in Ohio. But they know it’s a lot. It’s certainly more miles than would be necessary for driving around the entire world -- 24,850 miles.
Now they’re in Phoenix. Well, back in Phoenix, after attending the first NASCAR race of the season here. Now, they’re attending the championship race.
“Well, we’ve been to every race,” Diane said.
All 37 of them.
Since February, Diane, a retired waitress, and Sandy, a retired firefighter, hit the road in their RV with a bucket list of raceways. With the NASCAR Cup Championship race on Sunday, they will have done it. And in the process, out-driven the drivers who get paid to drive.
“I know,” Sandy said outside Phoenix Raceway, “I’m paying them.”
“We met people in Texas and then we’ve ran into them again months later,” Diane said. “I think I just enjoy the excitement of it.”
The NASCAR Cup Championship is back in Phoenix for a second year. The 2020 race was more subdued, due to the pandemic. But this year’s race is completely sold out and with no capacity restrictions. More than 42,000 fans will pack the raceway on Sunday.
Fans who – like Sandy – know enough about the tracks they visit that they can almost drive the cars themselves.
“Well, you sort of got an idea but you ain’t sitting in that car with your foot on the pedal!” Sandy said, although in the next breath he admits he’d have jumped at the chance to drive 50 years ago.
Now, Sandy dives the RV, at a much slower pace than the drivers he follows.
Sunday will be the last race of the year.
And Diane and Sandy will be there, in their seats, watching the last race of the best – and longest – trip of their lives.
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