1999 Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston: Fan Report From the Paid Seats
26 October 1999Editor's Note: This article contains mature language which may be objectionable to some readers. Parental discretion is advised.
Place: CART FedEx Race - 1999 Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston September 24 - 26, 1999
Introduction: after numerous discussion with Mr. Gordon president of "theautochannel.com" I have negotiated an arrangement to write a column which I have titled "Reflections from the Seats" [payment in beer]. What I am trying to achieve is an experience and assessment of actual events and stories that I have encountered as a race fan from going to motorsports events throughout out the United States. I will let the others journalists write about the actual details of the race. Let this be an experience of what it is like to be an attendee of a motorsports event.
Location background Houston Texas
The city of Houston in hosting the event in their town [I believe this is the second year of a five year contract]. Really appears to be going out of it way to make this a successful experience. The location of the temporary road course is located in an up and coming section of downtown Houston near the George R Brown Convention Center. It basically in a run down butt ugly neighborhood completes with hobos and decrepit buildings. But you have to look into the future to see where this section of town is going. While at the present moment you wouldn't want to be there at night. The future looms on the horizon. Presently being built in this neighborhood is Enron Field, which will be the new baseball stadium for the Houston Astros. I can envision a future visit where not only I will be attending an Astros game concurrently during the race weekend but also a number of trendy hotels and bars charging overpriced drinks [this being the price of progress]
I have the benefit this weekend of being with a group of old motorheads like my self. My old frat buddy Mr. Moto and Alex the Woodchopper who will be joining me this weekend in a number of escapades. Mr. Moto who is a long time resident of Houston, brings a locals perspective of the city. Very helpful in getting in and out of the venue as well as going to the local gentlemen establishments but that's for another column [best pick St James club by the airport]
OK on with the race
Mr. Moto having secured the seats for the race day only, has been altered to a local give a way contest by Texaco who is the sponsor of the race. Basically for a free fill up of gasoline of ones vehicle you receive a free admission entry for Fridays race events. Hey this is a saving of twenty dollars, which equals more beer for us. We enter from one of three entry points this one being by the George R Brown Convention Center. The entry point was chosen for its access in and out of the area. [Benefit of having Mr. Moto's local knowledge]
As we enter the neighborhood we encounter difficulty in trying to park, being Friday the office worker of downtown Houston have taken most of the eligible parking in this rundown part of town which is adjoining the Chinatown district. Unfortunately there is no order or coordination in this neighborhood that a race is in town. Plenty of weed strewn lots that could have been earning money from race fans parking going to waste. I am sure in the future with Enron field being completed this situation will improve
The facilities of the race have tremendous potential but it needs some refinement. There are plenty of concession stands offering a good variety of food and beverages [beer]. But there is not a place to sit down to enjoy ones meal. With your hands full of food and drink its tough to eat standing up, also as the event is held in September the temperature in Houston averages in the high 80's.The facility should take a queue from the Toronto race and provide a beer garden setting with tables with umbrellas to sit down and get away from the sun.
One of the more interesting parts of the racetrack facility is the paddock area. The paddock is located inside the George R Brown Center which means that its air-conditioned. The venue is much bigger than most paddocks that one encounters at other tracks. But this type of facility also takes away from the hustle and bussle of what you expect. Air conditioning is good, but it makes the paddock atmosphere sterile. Most of the area is blocked off for the race team, which gives the fans limited access to the drivers; tuff to get autographs and encounters with the infamous beer girls
T & A AND THE BEER WARS
One of the most interesting aspects of the race day experience that you encounter is "THE BEER WARS" there are a number of beer companies who are sponsors in CART of race teams. Budweiser, Miller Brewing and Tacate are the main participants. But the most interesting aspects of this sponsorship is the marketing tool known as 'THE BEER GIRLS - THINK INSIDE THE BOX YEA MOTORHEADS'
The beer girls are the ultimate marketing tools that brings out the best of the today's American business environment. Nothing like a hot looking babe with her corporate logo on her outfit to change your taste in beer. Hell some of these girls are so good looking you might even change your religion, woof - woof.
At Houston the beer girls were broken down into two camps. The TECATE GIRLS who are regulars on the CART circuit. The Tecate beer company is the sponsor of the Patrick racing team car driven by Adrian Fernandez. The girls are very friendly and are more than accommodating if you want to have your picture taken with them. This photograph makes a great souvenir of ones day at the races. Maybe in the future I will publish a separate article featuring my photos of the beer girls from past events
The Budweiser girls on the other part had more of an attitude problem; they were locals models hired for the event. I gather this was their first race and had no idea what they were getting into. Nothing like a bunch of horny motorheads to indoctrinate you into the race track environment. With that in mind yours truly tried to get a picture with the Bud girls and after much persuasion they obliged. The Bud girls spent most of their time at the Budweiser bandstand in the middle of the track. There were a number of local bands that performed during the event, and the Bud girls job was to act as stage ornaments wiggling and swaying to the beat. Ok not such a bad way to spend ones time. All that was needed was a tent over the area and a few picnic tables and the venue really improves. Houston try's they just need some refinement to the facility. As for Miller which also sponsors a race tam they were no where to be found. In fact I have not seen the Miller babes since the Long Beach race but that's another story.
As for the beverage selection at the venue. I must say it was acceptable. There was Bud side by side with Tacate [limes included]. No beer drinker would have gone thirsty.
Sidenote at the event my fellow motorhead Alex the Woodchopper through no doing of his own is prohibited from drinking alcohol, his attempt to secure an non alcoholic brew was paramount to defacing the Alamo in Texas. Not a warm and fussy response in his quest to be one of the beer guzzling boys.
OK Ace but what about the race? Give us some color. I love the smell of menthol in the morning. Yes Sunday is an early day, get there early or wait in traffic. And that's what we did -Early. The place we wanted to park was secured by some corporate drug company with no sample giveaways. Anyway we parked next to Enron stadium near the hobos and proceeded to the track. Our seats were in turn two a very good section with a superior view of the vision board. One aspect that the track doesn't provide is an internal radio station. This feature only is available at a handful of venues. It really helps to hear the ontrack commentators when the race is on, which gives the fans more insight into the ongoing events. Live and learn Houston. Mr. Moto and his friends of the famous SRO sports bar had most of the seats in the section where we were sitting in. even our own buddy " The Hanging Judge from Austin" made an appearance, but that another story. It's a good time when your watching a race with your friends someone is always making a beer run. All they need is the piss boy and you will never have to leave your seats. A good race and a good time enjoyed by all
Dear reader this is a new feature for "theautochannel.com" and I hope that you have enjoyed my insights into the race experience. If so please tell Mr. Gordon - I am thirsty and am waiting for my salary in beer to be paid. Till then motorheads- see you in the seats - ACE