When Kyle Busch and the 42 other NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers reach Turn 1 at the start of Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Couchman and Loveseat will stand and cheer.
Then they’ll settle down to watching the race from the comfort of their reclining chairs atop a 10-foot-tall deck in the infield campground, separated from the track by a fence and a few yards of pavement.
That’s how Couchman – Bill Montgomery – has been watching races in Charlotte for more than a decade. As usual, he’ll be joined by family members and friends, watching from any of four recliners and the three couches that earned Montgomery his nickname.
“This is Utopia,” Montgomery, 63, from the Davidson County town of Welcome, said Friday as he and four other men assembled the steel pipes, brackets and plywood that serve as their perch for the race. “It’s a great way to watch a race.”
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Montgomery has attended Charlotte races since 1978, but the couches and elaborate platform attached to his camper were added about a decade ago.
“We started out between Turns 1 and 2, but over the years, as people gave up their campsites, we kept moving closer to Turn 1,” said Montgomery, an engineer by trade. “Now we’re where we want to be.”
Montgomery’s wife of 27 years, Annette, attends many of the races, although her nursing duties will keep her away Saturday night. His daughter, Alex, attends many of the races. And his son Will, 22, a U.S. Army paratrooper based at Fort Bragg, accompanies his dad when he can.
Will has been dubbed “Loveseat” by his father, who says the younger Montgomery is poised to take over the operation.
“I’m getting a bit old for this,” Bill Montgomery said Friday. “I’m getting ready to turn it over to a new generation.”
At times in years past, Couchman’s perch included end tables, lamps and even cable television hookups. It’s been scaled back to mostly chairs and couches now, along with refreshments.
Bill Montgomery said it takes a couple of days to prepare to bring the equipment down to Charlotte and a few days to unload at home. The trip down Interstate 85 can be interesting.
“We’ve lost so many couch cushions on I-85,” said Will Montgomery, who has served a tour of duty in Afghanistan but is on leave this week and at the speedway. “I’ll yell to dad to stop, and we run back and pick them up.”
Bill Montgomery added, “There have been times when we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies coming down I-85.”
Bill Montgomery bought a trailer a few years ago, to store the equipment for the trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I call it Deckzilla,” he said of the trailer, which is about 25 feet long.
Couchman needs a crew to help set up Deckzilla, and on Friday that included two of his son’s friends, Caleb Tripp, 23, of Welcome, and Steven Solan, 22, of Pinehurst. They were joined by Stuart Maiden, of Annville, Ky. Bill Montgomery met Maiden at a race in Bristol, Tenn., and the two became friends.
“The funny thing is,” Maiden said, “that I remember coming to races here in Charlotte, sitting in the stands near Turn 1, and seeing those guys watching the race from couches. Now here I am, with them.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith said Couchman and his friends are part of what makes racing special.
“Our fans in the campgrounds become families,” Smith said. “The friendships built during race weeks here continue throughout the year. It’s a unique part of NASCAR.”
Couchman’s favorite driver is Austin Dillon, who is from Davidson County and played youth baseball with Will Montgomery.
“But I just enjoy being here, watching the race, and seeing the whole spectacle,” he said. “I guess we’re a part of that, huh?”