Haulers, fan rally mark return of NASCAR
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org September 12, 2013 9:52PM
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:23AM
The annual return of NASCAR racing was welcomed again in downtown Joliet on Thursday with the Hauler Parade and Race Fan Rally.
The Hauler Parade got a new twist this year when horses carried a Wells Fargo wagon ahead of the giant trucks that brought in the cars for the weekend races. The horses were well ahead of the haulers, noted one event organizer, so they wouldn’t be spooked when the truck drivers honked air horns behind them.
“We enjoy ourselves down here,” said Cory Brock, of Joliet, expressing a sentiment shared by the thousands who come out for the event each year, as he and wife, Carey, waited for the haulers to come down Scott Street. “The kids like the parade. We just like to come here and see what’s going on.”
For NASCAR fans Raechelle Sparks and Peggy Villareal, both of Joliet, the rally is a chance to share in the racing excitement, even though they’ll watch the races on TV instead of at Chicagoland Speedway this year.
“The race, the cars, the music — I just love the atmosphere,” Villareal said. “We run into people we know. We don’t even plan to meet them, but we see them here.”
As she got closer to a Dodge race car parked on Chicago Street, Sparks said that was one of the things she liked most about the Race Fan Rally.
“The cars. It’s so nice to be able to be near them and touch them. It’s exciting. They’re so fast.”
Racing fan Robert Bennett, 11, of New Lenox, said he enjoys the Hauler Parade because “it’s cool that they have the cars in there.”
Robert, whose mom said he closely follows the NASCAR racing season and the races leading up to Joliet, also enjoys the sheer, visceral experience of the race and does not wear earplugs at Chicagoland Speedway.
“It’s fun to watch the cars go fast. It’s fun to hear them,” he said.
At Race Fan Rally last year, Robert ran into NASCAR driver Casey Mears while he was getting some nachos and had his picture taken with Mears. It’s the sort of thing that happens at the casual street festival, where NASCAR drivers, fans and novices to the sport mix easily.
Chris Pelech, of Joliet, said he’s not a racing fan but likes the cars.
“I’m a computer engineering guy. I’m interested in how things work,” he said.
Pelech was with a friend, NASCAR fan Kelly McPartlan, of New Lenox. She has been to the races at Chicagoland Speedway, but “this is the first time I’ve been to the rally,” McPartlan said. “It’s pretty cool.”