Track weekends tend to invite the bizarre by default, but the last National Auto Sport Association event at Texas World Speedway was perhaps the strangest one yet. This weekend featured a music video shoot on pit lane over the night between the two days of NASA’s final weekend there.
Technically, NASA only had the track itself rented during the day, where high-performance driver’s education, time trial and race groups were allowed to get their emotional goodbyes to the beloved race track that is doomed for imminent destruction.
So, this left all other hours of the day as fair game for anyone else to rent the track part of the facility, even though the paddock was full of drowsy racers, some of whom were camping overnight on site. Only someone who has very little understanding of how motorsport works* would book anything super-loud close to where people are trying to snooze, right?
Hey, we know just the guy!
Needless to say, no one in the area racing community is particularly happy with Texas World Speedway’s current owner, who plans to stick a master-planned development in place of the track we know and love. The only person I may dislike more at the moment is myself for not getting the 944 HPDE-ready in time to sneak in one last time at this track.
Several people this weekend mentioned that the switch to redeveloping TWS took them by surprise. There was a big recent push to improve the facilities, which is noticeable in the recently-filled cracks in the asphalt and the improved bathrooms. All of a sudden, though, the ever-present rumor that someone might bulldoze the aging facility came to a head with a vote over the the latest owner’s plans for the site.
Local business owner Darcie Crumpacker went to the College Station City Council hearings over the creation of the municipal utility district that would allow residential and commercial construction on TWS’ site. Her business rents scooters and gets a bump from track weekends, where racers want a pit vehicle to roam around the massive site. She went to speak about the negative economic impact that bulldozing the track would have on local businesses who enjoy the extra bump from events that don’t rely on Texas A&M’s schedule for a change.
“It felt as if the city council was just going through the motions, with their minds already made up,” she said, explaining how the experience was disheartening at best.
Despite the fact that hotels would no longer be booked full on random weekends in the middle of the summer, the MUD went through, leaving area track groups scrambling to find space.
“It sucks that a good track is going away, but we’ve got to keep putting on good events,” explained NASA Texas Regional Director Will Faules. “TWS is a cool place because it’s so old. You always hear cool stories from pros and amateurs who raced here, and it’s one of the only [road courses] that goes outside the roval in the world.”
Faules explained that NASA will likely double-up on their other existing venues for 2016. The Texas region’s events have grown consistently since 2013 with no signs of slowing down, and they attract everyone from total track novices to experienced racers.
Their final event for Texas World Speedway was predictably huge. Everyone wants to drive here as much as possible before the track closes for good. It’s an incredible loss for the entire motorsports community.
On the Saturday of the two-day event, the event organizers were given a heads-up that there would be a music video shoot sometime that evening, but that was all the detail they said they received. No one at the track was quite sure when they would be coming in. It was something the property owner had lined up.
Sometime around 10:00 p.m., the film crew started setting up on pit lane.
10:00 wasn’t too bad. Many folks were still mulling around the paddock as they settled in for the night. Many of the campers retired into RVs or tents set up on the elevated viewing stands next to pit lane. That’s a popular camping spot because it’s a good, flat space to pop a tent and the stands catch a nice breeze from being higher off the ground.
It’s just that if there’s two things you learn from working on a film shoot, it’s a) Craft Services will make you fat and b) everything takes longer than you think it will. Everything. In other words, showing up at 10:00 is not a good sign unless you’re shooting silent stuff, b-roll, or things on the other end of the facility from where folks are trying to get some sleep. The first cars went on track at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
The owner of the track rolled in shortly afterwards, announcing “I’m the track owner” as he rushed through the gate to the film crew. Granted, he’s already on my List of People Stef Doesn’t Like Very Much by sheer merit of asking to bulldoze a historic racetrack. Saying you’re the owner in the exact tone of someone who wants you to know that they are an Important Person in response to someone who merely asked what was happening on pit lane won’t exactly move you off that list.
More bits and pieces were unloaded from the film crew’s trucks as the night went on. Several of us used the bright lights to get cool night-time shots of the barren grandstands, long-disused suites and the still-in-use offices above them.
In a scene that reminded me more of Bam Margera’s heavy metal wake-up prank than a race weekend, everything—lights, speakers, and the band themselves—was being pointed back towards the spectator stands in the paddock, full of sleepy people who needed to be coherent enough to drive at triple-digit speeds the next day.
Stands in the daylight.
Several of us wondered how they would get any view of the grandstands, given that bright lights tend to drown out the scenery behind them. They set up on the worn checkered-flag-patterned pad that looked as if it was used as a podium space back in the track’s heyday. If that was all that would be visible, couldn’t that pad have been remade in a nice studio somewhere off-site? I’ve seen “Fixer-Upper.” I know how distressing works. Paint some nice checkered patterns on the ground, take a nice little buffer here and there, scrape a bit in a few places, and boom: doomed race track chic, without having to physically set up at said doomed race track.
Several of us were hoping that whatever was being shot would be dubbed over elsewhere and kept mostly quiet. Nope! Close to midnight, they started doing sound checks on the drums. It wasn’t long before clips of bro-country started firing up for the band to lip-sync.
This brings us to the other big problem with this idea: the track’s gate closed at midnight. While the track owner was cool with (loudly) assuring the band, “It’s okay, I have the code,” those of us there for the vehicular action would be left high and dry if we couldn’t sleep. There was no escaping to a nice, quiet hotel unless you were with the track owner’s late-night party, managed to sneak out behind said party and/or you had the code.
Now it wasn’t only bright, but it was loud. “Heavy Metal Wake-Up,” but with more twang.
Granted, I’ve been a part of some crazy LeMons parties that may or may not have lasted longer than their pit-neighbors really wanted, but even there, folks generally know what to expect and make sleeping plans accordingly. Some paddocks party hard all through the night, but this relatively tame NASA group seemed to err on the side of a good night’s rest.
For some, that didn’t happen until the film crew wrapped up after a couple more hours of filming. Those who stuck around said that the music only got worse as the night went on. Brief ten-second test clips became two-minute loud chunks of song.
A couple friends were camping out in the insanely bright stands and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on aside from it being strange and annoying. One passed out like nothing was even happening, but the other had a very difficult time getting to sleep.
“The owners don’t care anymore,” said Seth Lemke, the sleepier of the pair. “What are they going to do, not invite us back?”
Ultimately, the noise didn’t seem to matter too much, as bizarre as it was. It was the group’s last event at TWS, for Pete’s sake. While an owner with more experience dealing with multiple-day motorsport events probably would have nudged the film crew to a regular day where there wouldn’t be campers trying to snooze, if anyone was having a bad time, they were doing it wrong.
“It may be a dump, but it’s our dump,” said one of the presenters during the first day’s awards ceremony, urging folks to enjoy the crap out of NASA’s final weekend there. “Cherish it.”
This is our Goondocks, only the Goonies were more successful in saving theirs. Ours is probably going away for good, and that sucks. Go drive it while it’s still here, if you get the chance. If you’re in Texas, it’s a unique experience. I was lucky enough to drive our Porsche Club of America chapter’s last event, and I got to experience high-speed turns like no other track in the state has. Sure, the facility is rough around the edges now, but the great flow of the road course is still there, and worth it.
There’s still a few weeks left according to the schedule, with both motorcycle and car track days on the calendar. The Sports Car Club of America races there next, followed by the World Racing League’s very final race at the track. Hop on to a team. Go for ride-alongs. Enjoy it. That’s why a track exists: for enjoyment.
Here are some of the scenes from around the track for NASA’s event. It’s sad to lose a great venue, but while it’s here, we’re all going to run the crap out of it.
We won’t always have this track, but we certainly had fun while it was here. RIP, TWS.
*Update: This line was me writing on grouchy, sleep-deprived emotion and a bit of an overstatement, so I owe the guy an apology here. Splendo was at the event, and met the owner, who actually did used to race and totally understands why the racing community is completely frustrated with his decision to close the track. The owner explained that there were extenuating circumstances that pushed the shoot to late Saturday night, and that the band was a family friend.
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