Power Rankings: NASCAR infield essentials

Jay Busbee
January 9, 2012

Welcome to Power Rankings! Sure, it's the offseason, but that doesn't mean we can't kick around some arbitrary rankings like we were at an infield tailgate. And speaking of infield tailgates, let's give the Power Rankings for the most important items you'll need at your next gathering. Prepare accordingly.

1. Flags. You've got to represent. Doesn't matter if you've got a banner the size of an auto dealer's flag or a soap-scrawled "88" on your windshield; you've got to back your driver. Now, NASCAR drivers' propensity to change teams can throw a wrinkle into this, so here's a handy rule: the more popular the driver, the less time you have to change over your flags. Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans needed to ditch the old "8" merchandise within days. Clint Bowyer fans probably have a good six months of lead time. Casey Mears fans? You guys are looked on with a mixture of indifference and pity. Get to it when you can.

2. Beer. Seriously, you even need to ask? This is like saying "oxygen is necessary." Encompassed in this category are all forms of mixed drinks: Jack Daniels and Coke, Jack Daniels and ice, Jack Daniels and cereal, Jack Daniels and more Jack Daniels. (What, there are other mixers besides Jack Daniels?) Tip: when drivers wander over to your campsite, and they occasionally do, don't offer them a drink. They have to drive, after all.

3. Music. Playing "Sweet Home Alabama" isn't just recommended, it's required. There are plenty of other candidates for the rest of the playlist, though; "Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band has played at literally every race I've been to since its release. "Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith wants so badly to enter that rotation, but its contrived need for acceptance should keep it on the outside looking in. Anyway, get yourself a good playlist. We'll whip one up here sometime soon.

4. Grilled meats. A necessity. Plus, you need to get yourself a specialty. Ribs, wings, whatever. Do something better than anybody else around you ... and then don't share.

5. Campfire. Or fire barrel. Or fire pit. Or fire of any kind, really. Most of the world's problems have been solved by five dudes standing around a campfire in a NASCAR infield. Problem is, they're usually too drunk to remember the solutions the next morning. Anyway, flame is seductive, especially in the infield. Just be careful who you seduce. That brings up a whole new set of problems.

6. A tricked-up ride. Sure, you could show up in a pickup and throw your tent on the ground, but why not go all the way? Spot-weld an old school bus into a traveling NASCAR freakshow! Invest half a million dollars into an RV nicer than your home! People will be so impressed, and isn't that what's important?

7. Disinfectant. I know this goes against the rules of the infield from the earliest days of NASCAR, but in the last few decades, infield diseases have mutated into these super-strains of virus so lethal that they have to be kept contained within the semi-sterile confines of the infield itself. Be careful, friends, lest you be skeletonized within minutes by sharing a beer.

8. Golf cart. This is a necessity for getting around the vast expanses of the infield, but it's not always logistically possible. Still, if you can get yourself a golf cart, you will never lack for a beer. (Which you should not drink while driving the golf cart, but still.) Never underestimate how badly people need to get to that bathroom a hundred yards away.

9. Satellite receiver. Because the worst place on earth to watch a NASCAR race is actually inside the infield at a NASCAR track, many technologically motivated fans will actually bring a satellite dish into the infield to, yes, watch the race as it circles around them. Postmodern America, baby!

10. Sharpie. Or ballpoint pen. Or chunk of ashy firewood. Or anything that you can use to get autographs. NASCAR drivers are among the best in sports for signing autographs, and you don't want to be caught without a writing implement. Of course, if you can goad one of them into punching you (not always tough to do, particularly after a race) you can just get the fist-mark tattooed.

N/A: Shower facilities, vegetables, recording devices of any sort. Should be self-explanatory in all three cases.

Got more to add? The comments are your playground, friends.