For the past two years, I have accompanied Mike to the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen with media credentials and cold garage and pit passes. Each year, as we walk around the track and I take in all the sites, Mike explains to me what is like to come to the track strictly as a fan. I have been very spoiled (and thankful) of the opportunities to participate as a member of the media to cover the race, but I also feel like I have missed out on certain passage rights of NASCAR fans.
A few weeks ago, some friends and I came to Watkins Glen to attend their annual Wine Festival; my absolute favorite festival of all time! We decided that the easiest and most responsible way to ensure our safety and continued fun would be to camp at the track. Do not be fooled! I guarantee it was a very comparable experience to camping during race weekend – the late night drinking fests, blaring music until 3 am, toga party, bon fire and fireworks. There was little sleep acquired, which was okay with us since that was not the intent of our stay. My imagination (and from leisurely walking around the track at 8am and seeing all the beer cans strewn about) tells me that race weekend is not much different. So I have checked camping at the track off my list this year.
This weekend (yesterday), Mike was very motivated to be out of the Media Center as much as possible in order to freshen our horizons and spark creativity by experiencing the garages before and during practices. This may sound boring or naïve to some, but for me, it was absolutely amazing!
First, we casually walked past the cars and their appropriate teams working diligently to perfect them for the races. I am accustomed to watching these guys work from my living room couch. I know they work fast and there are constant sounds of power tools and engines, but to smell the exhaust (and other fumes) and feel the rumble of the cars travel through my body as they light up the garage area really brought my attention to how much this is new to me… and I love it!
Mike successfully set up a few interviews yesterday, including Jeremy Clements and Chase Elliott. Normally, I do not attend the interviews. Initially I figured I would be a nervous mess that would rub off onto Mike, so I would just let him go on these adventures by himself. This year he insisted I come along and I am so appreciative. Though I probably did not say more than three words to either driver from what I remember, it was a remarkable experience for me because it yet again reminded me that this is real, these people are real, and it is not as easy as it looks on TV.
Thanks to Can-Am Spyder, Mike and I received Hot Passes this year which has allowed us the freedom of wandering the garage and admiring the atmosphere to my heart’s content. During the Sprint Cup practice, my adrenaline surged as I watched the cars go in and out and crews work speedily from inside the garage area. Because I like paying attention to small details that probably means nothing to anyone else, I was fascinated focusing on when drivers choose to get out of their cars. Jimmie Johnson caught my attention a few times when he jumped out and immediately began working on the car with his crew. Kyle Busch was another one I watched relatively closely and was a little surprised at the speeds he used while literally pulling his car into the actual garage. The roar of the cars was phenomenal; I cannot think of words that truly justify an explanation of exhilaration.
I am excited to see what I experience today and cannot wait to report back!