Guns, Religion and NASCAR!

I was standing in the center of the Texas Motor Speedway Monday morning, staring up at my ... now I guess I could say friend ... Governor Rick Perry of Texas as he was giving a brief welcome for the annual Sprint Cup, when he boomed out the words with his fist thrust in the air:

"In Texas, we love our guns, religion and NASCAR!"

The crowd went wild and I knew I wasn't in the Hollywood Hills anymore, Dorothy. I was in reddest of red state America and this blue state boy -- born in NY, father from Massachusetts, educated in New Hampshire and Connecticut, most of his life in LA -- was lovin' it.

Yes, this was my first NASCAR race and, truth to tell, I can't say how much I would normally enjoy it because this was like going to your first Laker game as the guest of Jack Nicholson.

I had been invited down by Gov. Perry's people for a weekend of auto racing and barbecue as opposed to my visit to Texas earlier this year when they invited me down for a weekend of shootin' and barbecue (notice the common denominator).

Of course, there was, in both cases, a more serious side, some politics and new media thrown in, but we'll get into that later.

About NASCAR. I was able to be inside the garage, the pits with the crew and the hauler (new word for me), a kind of all-purpose trailer (don't say "trailer," you dumb city slicker!) where the gear is stowed. It was all administered by an outfit called TRG - The Racer's Group.

This particular race was something of a marathon since most of us arrived on Saturday evening for brisket at Cooper's in the Ft. Worth stockyard. There Perry said a few words, which evolved into his pro-Tenth Amendment stump speech, and then introduced Bobby Labonte, who was driving the Rick Perry for Governor sponsored car in the race.

Now Bobby is something of a NASCAR star, though I didn't know him from Adam, since the only drivers I ever heard of drove Ferraris. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, but not by much). Anyway when we met, he was a perfectly regular guy, which I'm told is the normal case for NASCAR.

More importantly, he was my height! When I go to Laker games, if I'm lucky enough to sit down close, I feel like I'm part of a race of midgets.