There’s nothing like a night at The Madhouse.
If you’ve never been to Bowman Gray Stadium, nestled just minutes from downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., you’re missing out on a real experience.
I’ve had people tell me for years, “You’ve got to go at least once, just to see what it’s like!”
Skeptically, I figured it was no different than other short-track venues I’ve visited.
Oh, but it is.
Walk into the stadium – yes, a stadium, where Winston-Salem State still plays its football games – and you’ll feel like you’re in a carnival-type atmosphere. It’s definitely a show, and it doesn’t stop when the green flag drops.
Why would it, when its nickname is something like “The Madhouse?”
BGS isn’t bashful about its gimmicks, like cone races – where on restarts, drivers in the back can move up close to the front by taking the top line when driving past a cone – or the old-fashioned draw.
The draw essentially renders qualifying useless if you’re a regular competitor who made the field for Saturday’s 100-lap Modified feature, but you didn’t win the pole. The draw put Burt Myers 18th and Junior Miller 20th.
Anything that puts Myers and Miller nose-to-tail has to be considered a success.
The longtime rivals didn’t get a chance to mix it up, since Miller was involved in a lap 13 crash. Myers dodged a slew of early wrecks and finished fourth to his brother, Jason.
There’s more to Bowman Gray than just the racing, though. Walk through the stands – which were packed even on a night I was told to expect “a small crowd” – and you’ll hardly see any NASCAR apparel. Fans at Bowman Gray don’t wear shirts that say “Earnhardt,” “Gordon” or “Busch.”
They wear shirts featuring “Myers,” “Miller” and “Brown.” They keep it local.
They keep it interesting, too. On more than one occasion, there was an argument between fans of rival drivers. Short-track racing brings out the fight in the drivers and their supporters.
What makes Bowman Gray special is that it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. The track has hosted racing non-stop since 1948, but it’s not the flashiest place you’ll ever see a race.
It might be the most fun, though.