You thought you had to fight race traffic? Neville and Wendy Trollip drove 3,500 miles in a rental car from Los Angeles to Charlotte.
That followed a 9,300-mile flight from Perth, Australia to Los Angeles.
All that to say they were there for three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, cheering on their guy, Ford driver Brad Keselowski.
This was their second trip to the United States to follow their stock-car passion. They estimate they’ll spend $14,000 by the end of their six-week round trip, taking them to races at Kansas, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover.
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Why Charlotte? Because it’s the home of NASCAR.
Four hours before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the Trollips unfurled an Australian flag in front of Keselowski’s pit box, and took a selfie as a memento of their travels. They first came to the States in 2014, when they also built their trip around the Memorial Day weekend classic, NASCAR’s longest race.
“Why Charlotte?’ Wendy asked herself Sunday, “because it’s the home of NASCAR.”
The Trollips began their love affair with NASCAR when fellow Australian Marcos Ambrose was on the circuit. Ambrose came up in the V8 Supercar series, and Neville once worked in that series.
When Ambrose dropped off the NASCAR circuit in 2014, the Trollips had to find another driver. Ford is a popular brand in Australia, so they started there. Keselowski, who won the season championship in 2012, caught Wendy’s fancy first.
“I just picked him one race, and that was it,” Wendy recalled. “He was my guy from then on!”
The Trollips’ path to Charlotte sounds like an old Johnny Cash song ...
Following NASCAR in Australia isn’t all that hard, thanks to Fox Sports’ presence in that country, but it does involve alarm clocks. The Trollips say they get up Monday mornings, Perth time, at 3 a.m. to watch each race live.
The Trollips’ path to Charlotte sounds like an old Johnny Cash song: They drove through Denver, Lincoln, Neb., and Oklahoma City on their way to Kansas and North Carolina. From here, they’ll drive up to Virginia Beach for a few days, en route to Dover, Del., for the last race of their tour.
Then it’s all the way back to Los Angeles in that rental car, before boarding the flight to Australia. The Trollips sure hoped Sunday they’d see something special from Keselowski’s performance.
“I’ve spent so much to be here!” Wendy said, “I’d like to have that memory.”
No such luck Sunday. Keselowski was caught up in a wreck early in Sunday’s race that took him out of contention.
CMS gone Hollywood
NASCAR hasn’t always been thrilled with how the sport is depicted by Hollywood. For instance, Will Ferrell’s farcical comedy, “Talladega Nights,” reinforced the redneck stereotypes that have surrounded the sport.
Channing Tatum’s upcoming comedy, “Logan Lucky,” took a different approach. It’s a heist plot about a scheme to steal $14 million from Charlotte Motor Speedway during the 600: Think “Ocean’s 11-meets-Days of Thunder.”
Both ‘Logan Lucky’ star Channing Tatum and director Steven Soderbergh, are Southern and wanted to celebrate, rather than poke fun, at the weekly spectacle that is stock car racing’s top series.
Both Tatum and the film’s director, Steven Soderbergh, are Southern and wanted to celebrate, rather than poke fun, at the weekly spectacle that is stock car racing’s top series.
“I let them know we wanted to have fun with it without making fun,” said Tatum, who served as grand marshal of Sunday’s race.
The movie includes cameos by several NASCAR drivers, but Soderbergh chose not to cast them as drivers. The cast also includes Daniel Craig, Hillary Swank and Katie Holmes.
Tatum, best known for his roles in the “Magic Mike” movies, is fascinated by what he’s seen in NASCAR garages.
“You get behind (the walls) and it’s like NASA physicists working on these cars.”
Helping the inspectors
Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan Grace Younts, 12, from Statesville had a huge weekend in one of Junior’s last two CMS races before retirement.
Earnhardt signed Younts’ picture Saturday, then minutes later walked through the crowd in front of his hauler to sign his hat and present it to Younts.
The topper was Sunday, when Younts and her grandfather, Terry Younts, stood watching at the NASCAR’s template tent, where cars must conform to size and shape before being approved for each race.
“She stood there through every inspection, waiting for Junior’s car to come. So (a NASCAR official) told her she could help him do the inspection,” Terry Younts said. “She was sort of nervous at first, but she went ahead and did it, and I’ve got it all on tape.”
Tribute to Haggard
Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was a big hit in the pre-race show, particularly when they asked “Anybody like country music?”
That was their cue to do a tribute to iconic country star Merle Haggard, who passed away in California last year.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell