NASCAR takes over the streets of Big Apple for a day
Posted: Friday December 2, 2005 4:55PM; Updated: Friday December 2, 2005 5:12PM
A bustling Big Apple tumbled harmlessly into leathered hands during rush hour on Wednesday morning as the city was invaded by NASCAR Nation, which completed a 36-week campaign and decades-long strategy by the separatist state to assume control over the United States and its most populous city.
Thousands of New Yorkers watched helplessly as a convoy of 10 brightly colored cars stormed through Midtown, growling loudly at oncoming buses and trucks while belching a trail of thick blue haze into the gray cityscape. NASCAR Nation would wage similar campaigns in other U.S. cities such as Phoenix, Ft. Worth and Chicago in the past year, but had never so publicly maneuvered inside metropolitan New York until Wednesday.
New York City law enforcement failed to mount much of a resistance against the rolling rebel force, their actions, at times, appearing more accommodating of the wheel-bound invaders than protective of its citizens. Steel barricades on city streets shielded the convoy from pedestrian attack. During the procession, police officers could be observed diverting traffic away from the convoy amid muffled pleas by citizens set to create a diversion and stall traffic to allow U.S. military forces sufficient time to mount a counterattack.
Military analysts believe that this unprecedented acquiescence by local and national law enforcement allowed the motorcade to navigate a circuitous 1.75-mile route, beginning at Rockefeller Center on West 49th Street and ending on East Park Avenue, in less than 15 minutes -- a record for morning rush hour in the city. An NBC helicopter, concerned over the well being of Ann Curry, who earlier was seized from the NBC's Today Show studios by NASCAR forces and held captive inside the No. 20 car of Tony Stewart, circled the city. With Curry riding shotgun, Stewart, led the convoy around the city in an apparent victory lap.
At no time did New York's Finest make an attempt to rescue the veteran NBC newswoman -- nor was there any concern for Access Hollywood's Billy Bush, who could be seen with a camera on his shoulder and hanging out the window of a sling-shot yellow SSR in front of Stewart.
The convoy eventually roared to rest on Park Avenue, in front of the Seagram Building where NASCAR Nation is believed to have been headquartered, dormant, for the past seven years despite claims to an "official" home base in Daytona Beach, Fla. A row of flags bearing the numbers and colors of each car and reportedly arranged in order of importance hung from the sidewalk onto Park Avenue, marking the first known instance in history in which one nation has invaded another and didn't have to worry about parking. Stewart (with Curry in tow) took the poll position at the northeast corner of 53rd and Park, with the 16, and 99 Fords filing in behind him.
In seizing the Seagram Building, NASCAR officials would secure an arena upon which to begin their propaganda push. A stage was erected, towering speakers were installed and a Long Island radio station was commissioned to drown out the honking horns and chirping phones. Before the convoy touched down, a trio of yellow cabs skittered east down 52nd Street. Within five minutes of its arrival, the bright orange Home Depot varsity jackets started to outnumber the pinstriped suits. A way of life seemingly lost.
The last car to pull in was Kurt Busch's number 97 Ford. Like Stewart, Busch, according to reports, was NASCAR's highest regarded official -- albeit a year ago. Upon coming to a stop behind the No. 19 Dodge of Jeremy Mayfield, Busch's car began leaking a suspicious florescent green fluid that cascaded down his right front tire and onto the street. "Just like the rest of his season," mused one observer from behind a police barricade. Busch was the first of the 10 drivers to reach the plaza stage, saying nothing but grinning demurely as a crowd NASCAR natives booed for the first and only time. The other drivers soon followed, each flanking the other, smiling and waving in their fire-retardant suits like astronauts from the moon.
On Friday night, they celebrate with dinner at Waldorf Astoria. "Maybe one day, we'll be doing something more here besides holding a banquet," NASCAR president Mike Helton would say of his nation's 25-year-old tradition.
After Wednesday's display, it seemed plain to New Yorkers that the motorists had already won.