Canada and NASCAR? Why not! I've mentioned in passing in some earlier posts that I've been finding a rather large contingent of Canadian fans here at the speedway. I guess I should say the contingent's larger than I would have expected. If there are any Canadians reading, they probably know what I didn't: NASCAR is huge in the Great White North.
In my trek through the infield during the Bush race today, I saw several Canadian flags proudly flying. I said hello to a few fans, but when I stopped to ask a couple of women who were watching in the Busch race on a television outside of an RV camper, I was struck again by the strange -- again, to me -- juxtaposition of an Alabaman and a Canadian sharing the experience. The two fans were Leah Cochrane, of Brantford, Canada, near Toronto, and Dawn Rowell of Fairhope, Ala. (Fairhope was damaged by the Gulf Coast hurricanes last year, but it's coming back, Dawn says.
I asked how the two ladies knew each other. It turns out that Dawn's fiance, Terry Warren, is Canadian and is good friends with Leah's husband Ian Cochrane, who's also Canadian. Leah and Ian were married last October 1st, and the trip to Daytona is a wedding gift from Dawn and Terry -- it'll be their first live race. The two couples' RVs are parked next to each other in the infield.
Terry and Ian were in the grandstand for the Busch race, while Dawn and Leah watched the action on a TV a "neighbor" had set up outside his RV.
Being from Alabama, Dawn's been to races before. She's partial to Talladega, "but I'm prejudiced," she says. That's understandable. .
Dawn says that up north they usually watch with friends in a sports bar.
I wanted to know if NASCAR was bigger than hockey up north. "Not yet," said Dawn, "but last year it was." Ah, right, the NHL strike year.
And who are they pulling for? The 8 car, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Apparently he's as big up north as he is down south.
A Note and A Tribute:
While I was talking with Terry and Leah, Lonnie Ellis from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., stopped and asked us to sign a Daytona 500 T-shirt in memory of his close friend Rick Boehring who had been buried the day before. "I'm here for him," he said. Lonnie said Rick was epileptic and died in his sleep at age 36, though Lonnie believes Rick died of a broken heart since he'd lost his wife and daughter in a car crash two years before. He said the two of them were supposed to watch the 500 together this year. He planned to give the shirt to his deceased friend's mother as a memorial tribute.
Last night I ran into Lonnie again. He said this year's celebrity pace car driver Jay Leno had signed the shirt.
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Posted by: bc | February 19, 2006 12:27 PM