So many times you hear someone talk about a race that was either incredible or horrible. But what differentiates the two? When I was a kid I loved watching the wreck-fests at Wall Stadium, but I remember people complaining that it was a bad show, or it was a boring night and I didn’t see what they saw. As I’ve gotten older, good, clean, side-by-side racing is now what excites me. But what changed?

As I’ve grown around the sport, my knowledge of the inner workings of the cars and observing different driving styles have transformed what I see on track. Many times, friends who aren’t familiar with the sport ask, “How can you just watch cars drive in circles?” And the answer is simple. I don’t see cars driving in circles. I see cars that are tight in and loose out, I see drivers who know how drive through a pack of cars to take the lead, and some drivers who could use some help. I see cars that are set up properly, and teams that are chasing the setup. Over the years, this difference in knowledge has changed how I think about the sport, as much as how I watch it.

Instead of being entertained (or bored) by cars driving around a track, I’m overwhelmed by the technical aspect of what’s happening with each car. When I watch a car drive to the front, I start running different scenarios through my head, trying to figure out what could possibly be so different on that car, especially when another racer may have more power.

And when it comes to power, I’m even more enthralled by what is different under the hood from car to car. With the innovative world of engine builders, thinking about what one does different than another to gain an advantage within the same rules has always greatly interested me. The “gray area” of a rulebook is sometimes more important than what’s black and white. This is where innovation comes from, and circle track racers are among the most innovative racers on the planet.

Another great part of watching a race is how good drivers can be. Watching a guy or girl who’s been racing at the same track for 10 or 15 or 20 years is nothing short of impressive. To clarify, I’m not talking about a guy who can go out and set fast time. I’m talking about the guy who can go run a 50-lap feature, hitting every mark, lap after lap. He may not be the fastest guy on track, but consistency wins races, and he’s won a lot.

But is it the wrecks, great side-by-side racing, the technical aspect, or what’s going on under the hood that keeps me coming back? I think it’s all of the above. This combination with the added excitement of the sights, smells, and sounds of being at the racetrack never lets it get old. I learn more every time I go, and each experience is unique and exciting.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the racetrack. I’ll be honest, sometimes I still like to see a good wreck-fest (although when a 25-lap feature takes almost two hours, it does get old), but I’m always watching for the cars that are fast, trying to figure out why they are fast, and how to make the cars that are struggling a little better. Every trip is a learning experience, and I can’t wait to get back to the track!