Outside the race track every weekend the village of souvenirs, car displays and sponsor tents appear seemingly out of nowhere. They offer samples of sun screen, chewing tobacco, and Coca-Cola. You can even play video games, or test your skill as a member of a pit crew. Whatever your pleasure, the city of tents and trailers serve a pivotal part of any weekend and it is only with the hard work of perhaps the most under appreciated men and women at the track that the midway is so flawlessly executed.
As we have said here before, NASCAR is much like a circus, in town to entertain, but quickly moved to the next venue. This is perhaps most true of the people who work in what I will call the midway. For 36 weekends a year they make sure sponsors are happy and fans fulfilled. They provide entertainment when none is happening at the track, and give fans a place to spend their hard earned souvenir money. They also provide a place for sponsors to showcase their product and connect with their supporters. Their hard work enhances the fan experience, with little benefit.
Team members are a visible part of the NASCAR world, and have TV segments and entire websites dedicated to them. When was the last time you saw a roster with the names of midway workers on it, or watched a segment on Fox saluting their efforts? It does not happen. They often work non-stop for several days to make sure the displays best represent their team or sponsor only to tear it down and begin anew in another city.
While crew members and transport drivers are able to pack up and fly, or drive immediately home, many of these people have to spend hours deconstructing a display that may have been up for less time than it took to build. I remember a couple seasons ago the Sprint (or Nextel) fan display was actually built out of large glass panels (see the above picture). It took at least a full day for that team to set up and then they were working immediately after the race to deconstruct. Following that they would have to transport those materials to the next venue. Not to mention they worked the fan zone during the whole race weekend. Their story though is not unlike the many others who make the midway possible.
Be it the Chevrolet display, one of the scanner companies or the many souvenir haulers, each and every person gives up a lot just to be at the race track every weekend. In fact, most of these people do not ever get to see races from inside the track. They are cleaning up or leaving while the race is going on. Many spend nine months of the year away from their friends and families, for little compensation, all in pursuit of the NASCAR dream.
I challenge everyone to thank the people who make the midway possible next time they are at the track. They work hard to build displays and then in turn to enhance your at track experience. Do you have any stories of your midway experience? What is your favorite display? How did a midway worker enhance your weekend?