The exiting fans have turned the surrounding area into a giant parking lot, and motor homes like the Waltrips' will be among the last vehicles to leave the speedway. After 600 miles of driving at insane speeds, Michael still has another 20 or so to log in the motor home. Legions of smiling fans line the fence that borders the far end of the garage. Eyes glazed, Waltrip wades into the crowd and heads instinctively toward the RV, like a salmon swimming upstream. Most fans leave him alone. Then a chubby man who looks as though he stepped out of a Smokey and the Bandit chase scene approaches with a sheet of crumpled yellow paper.
"Hey, Michael," he says in a thick Southern drawl. "Can you sign?" Without flinching, Waltrip looks the fan in the eye, scribbles his signature and manages a faint smile.