NASCAR returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. The sport's longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600, is on Sunday. There won’t be any fans in the stands because of the coronavirus. But one person who will be allowed to watch in person is Christian Espinoza. That’s because he’s one of the few people who live at the speedway in condos on Turn 1 overlooking the track.
Marshall Terry: So did you ever think that you would get a whole NASCAR race pretty much to yourself?
Christian Espinoza: No, I don't think anybody could ever think that. Even my neighbors who live here, it's a pretty surreal moment that's about to happen for us living here at the racetrack.
Terry: I've seen the pictures you posted on Twitter looking out of this giant window at the track. So is that the view from your living room?
Espinoza: Yeah. So we have five main windows that look out our track and it's a living room, a kitchen they're kind of combined into one. It's not the biggest condo, but it's a pretty cool view. Can't beat it.
Terry: Now, come Sunday, will you have people over to watch the race with you in your condo?
Espinoza: Yeah. So our HOA worked with the track and the local government to figure out what we could do with the condos because it's our property -- but we have to be smart because we're also on the track property. I get to have four guests. It's been a little hard to choose.
Terry: So I guess a lot of people have been asking you if they can come over?
Espinoza: I've never had more friends in my life than this past two or three weeks. It's been kind of a funny thing, actually. I've tried to look at it from a positive. This is fun to see who hits me up, who I haven't talked to in a while. And it's also a little difficult, but it's it's fun to see who is reaching out and stuff -- especially random people on Twitter that I've never met before. They're just throwing out their shots, which is kind of funny to see.
It’s race week @CLTMotorSpdwy, but it doesn’t look like it from outside the track, where the Fan Zone and entertainment areas would all be getting setup. Eerie feeling. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/H3w0EkgEIj
— Christian Espinoza (@Christian_Racin) May 18, 2020
Terry: Now, are your guests required to wear masks and maintain social distancing? Is the HOA requiring that or are you requiring that?
Espinoza: We're not being required to wear masks, but we're not allowed to congregate anywhere outside of the condos itself. So pretty much when the guests get here, they'll park in our parking lot and it's straight to the condo. You can't hang out in the lobby, can't hang out outside. It's going to be pretty heavily enforced that once you're here, you're in whichever condo you're assigned to and you're there for the whole race.
Terry: So what do you say when people ask you where you live?
Espinoza: Yeah, I usually tell people, you know, I live with the racetrack and they're kind of like, "Oh, you live around the track and in an apartment building?" I'm like, no, I live like actually above the grandstands of the racetrack. Here's a picture. And then they're just all dumbfounded. And, "No, there's no way you live there. There's not condos." Once people come over and see it, that's usually when they believe it. There's a lot of people think that this is just like a suite that I hang out in throughout the year. I'm like, no, there's there's bedrooms here. I sleep here, I wake up here. So it's pretty funny to see people's reactions when I tell them -- and when they first come here.
Terry: There's only a couple of races every year in Charlotte. So what is it like when there's not a race going on? Is it pretty quiet?
Espinoza: Yeah, that's the funny thing is, is a lot of people will ask me, "Oh, my gosh, it must be so loud living at the racetrack! You must never get sleep." And I'm like, well, no, there's only three race weekends here. So the rest of the year it's pretty quiet, actually. They have the Christmas lights in December and a couple of the car shows throughout the year. But it's ironically one of the quietest places you could live. There's not too much that goes on that keeps you, you know, focused on the track and stuff. It's pretty quiet.
Terry: So when there is a race, how loud is it there in your condo?
Espinoza: It's pretty loud. The windows, the condo building, you know, claims that they're soundproof. Well, they're soundproof to a certain extent. You could talk to your friends up here. It's a lot quieter than the grandstands, but you still have the rumble of the cars that go by. And the seats shake and stuff, just like you're in the grandstands. But it's quiet enough to where you can have conversations, which is nice. But you're definitely still get that loud, "I'm at a NASCAR race" feeling. For sure.
Terry: Do you work in NASCAR?
Espinoza: So I graduated last May from UNC Charlotte. And after interning here at the track and a couple other organizations in NASCAR, I went to work up in Mooresville at Truex Management Group with Martin Truex Jr.'s companies. He's a driver in the Cup Series. And I worked there for about six or seven months. And then when this whole coronavirus pandemic kind of started, I decided to personally go home to California and be there for it -- which ended up being a good decision because it was nice to be home with family and stuff while this all went on. The goal is to definitely still work in NASCAR. It's just still a little on hold right now.
Terry: You said you went home to California for the pandemic. So why did you come back?
Espinoza: Came back for the race. I couldn't stay sitting in California knowing this was going on. So, I mean, we heard rumors throughout the past couple of months that this might be one of the first races back with no fans. And I knew the whole time I could be here, whether or not fans were allowed. So the plan was to come back here whenever they put the race on. So that's why I came back.
Terry: All right. Thank you, Christian, for taking the time.
Espinoza: Thank you for having me.
Terry: That's Christian Espinoza, who lives in a condo at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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