Volume 16 • Issue 46 | April 9 - 15, 2004

Looking for NASCAR dads and moms in Tribeca

By C. B. Morley

Downtown Express photo by C.B. Morley

Sherry Harrow, donning the colors of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., was one of the few to attend NASCAR’s kickoff event at Buster’s Garage on Sunday.

The superstars of NASCAR are now making weekly pit stops at a recently-opened Tribeca eatery. Patrons can almost smell the burning rubber and gasoline of the race track over the aroma of barbeque entrees as the weekend warriors of the stock car circuit do battle on televisions overhead.

Buster’s Garage, located at 180 W. Broadway between Leonard and Worth Sts., is the city’s only official NASCAR site. Each weekend, for the duration of the season, Buster’s will show televised stock car races, offer race-themed giveaways, and much more to draw in the Big Apple’s underserved racing community.

“NASCAR fans are known for their loyalty,” said manager Eric Ness. “If I can give them an environment where they can come watch the race, have a few drinks and enjoy a good meal, it’s a win-win for everyone. Fans of other sports – football, basketball, baseball – all have places to go watch their games. Now NASCAR fans have Buster’s Garage.”

Constructed adjacent to 180 Sports and Classics Dealership, a dealer of rare and exotic automobiles, Buster’s Garage offers an atmosphere unlike most other bars and restaurants in the neighborhood. From its wood-paneled walls to its rock-and-roll jukebox, Buster’s has a warm and relaxed atmosphere. Even the namesake commercial garage bay doors have been incorporated into the pub’s design, cordoning off the bar from the patio dining area. It was this unusual layout that prompted NASCAR to approach the owners and offer its partnership in bringing the sport a home in New York.

“I live in the area and watched as the place was being built,” said Andrew Giangola, director of business communications for NASCAR. “Here was this ‘car bar’ right next to a very cool car dealership. It screamed out to be the home for NASCAR fans in the city.”

Ness said that he was intrigued by NASCAR’s offer and was happy to give it a green flag. “We’re a laid back place in a high-end neighborhood. We cater to families with children, friendly crowds, and folks looking for a good time and great barbecue,” he said. “Those are the people that watch NASCAR.”

Events at Buster’s are slated to be held for the remainder of the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season, which runs from February through November. A majority of the NASCAR races are held on Sunday afternoons, while a handful of races take place on Saturday nights. In total, the NASCAR season includes 36 races run throughout a 38-week schedule.

NASCAR racing is the nation’s second most watched sport, following football. Many of NASCAR’s races boast attendances greater then a Major League Baseball playoff game, an N.B.A. finals game, and the Super Bowl combined.

Working with NASCAR and sponsors Budweiser and EA Sports, Buster’s Garage has put together a family-friendly race day program. Adults can watch the race, while children are welcome to partake in arcade racing on several Xbox video game systems. Trivia challenges and raffles are also held, offering a variety of giveaways to winners.

“We want to offer something for everyone,” said Ness. “We do have a family friendly environment. When we were showing N.F.L. games, kids came in and threw around a football on the patio. We want to make NASCAR even more accessible. I think that we’ve been able to do something here that the whole family can enjoy.”

Buster’s Garage officially kicked-off its NASCAR season on Sunday, April 4. Only a few diehard race fans came to watch the Samsung/RadioShack 500. The management attributed the turnout to the day’s rainy weather, the changeover to Daylight Savings Time, and the Palm Sunday holiday.

The small crowd likely came as a relief to a few residents, who raised concerns about the scheduled NASCAR events at the March Community Board 1 meeting. There is some fear of large, rowdy crowds taking to the streets around Buster’s Garage on race days, creating all sorts of disturbances in the quiet neighborhood.

Ness said as he was working to open the establishment, he communicated well with the community board. He said that it was his desire to create a business that offered customers an alternative to the other fare available in the neighborhood and that he wanted to put forward an environment where parents could bring their children, enjoy a good meal, and have a good time.
Buster’s Garage management said it had hoped for a better turnout for its inaugural race, but realized that it might take some time for word to get out as to what it offered.

“We heard about Buster’s through a notice posted on the NASCAR.com Web site,” said Commack resident Dave Harrow, who was accompanied by his wife, Sherry. “We decided to come in after seeing the NASCAR IMAX movie [Uptown].”

Sherry Harrow said that she enjoyed the experience. “We’re definitely coming back here,” she said. “It’s nice to talk to people and watch the race on the TVs here. The sound [system] here is great. It’s not like other bars where they don’t turn down the music while you’re watching and you don’t know what’s happening.”

Ness said that the restaurant’s menu features “comfort food,” including traditional pub fare such as Buffalo wings and hamburgers. In addition, Buster’s Garage offers a number of barbeque entrees and several specialty items, such as three pepper chicken, braised lamb and classic New Orleans jambalaya. “We’ve got something for everyone at reasonable prices,” said Ness. “We also have regular weekly drink specials. Buster’s is really a place where people can come, hang out and have a good time.”

According to Buster’s Garage management, a number of special events are being planned, including visits from NASCAR drivers, a stock car racing simulator and more. “We’ve got a lot in store for NASCAR fans,” said Ness. “All we need is for them to come out and support us.”


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