Yesterday I went to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma for the NASCAR Sprint Cup testing sessions. Let me tell you it was really cool!
First of all, it was free and you can’t beat free.
Second, everything was open. By open I mean seriously open. I parked my car in the garage area, literally next to the haulers. The garage stalls were right across from my car. When it’s a race weekend, everything is blocked off and you have to have a garage pass. There was none of that yesterday. There were no Hot or Cold garage warnings. If I had the balls to do it I totally could have walked right into someone’s garage and been like “Hey, what’s up? How’s the car handling today?”
That being said you really had to watch yourself ’cause the guys were coming in and out of the garage left and right and there was no one around with a whistle to tell you to get out of the way. Case in point a man with two kids was walking towards me in the grandstand/victory lane area completely oblivious to the grumbling race car right behind them.
I always wonder how drivers feel about having the fans right there looking at them, getting in their way, etc. It’s not like I can walk into the Chicago Bears locker room and stare at Brian Urlacher before a game, although if the NFL decides to start doing that sign me up! Just kidding. Sort of. Ok I’m not kidding.
Anyway, back to yesterday. I stood in the victory lane above pit road and realized that this was exactly where I wanted to be at that exact moment. It was so awesome to just be there, taking pictures and watching the cars drive by. There weren’t a lot of people on hand, although more started to come in as I was leaving, but all in all I probably saw less than 15 people all told — lots of grandparents, fathers and sons.
Travis Kvapil, David Ragan, J.J. Yeley, Marcos Ambrose, Sam Hornish Jr. and David Gilliland were all there to test cars in anticipation of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. J.J., David Ragan, Marcos and Travis tested in GT America stock cars provided by Pioneer Motorsports from Lake Oroville, California (outside Sacramento). David Gilliland drove a NASCAR Camping World Series West car. I seriously couldn’t tell who was who ’cause the paint schemes were not their own, except for Sam’s.
Of the drivers that were present I only saw J.J., David Gilliland and Sam outside of their cars. I got a photo of Sam on his cell phone. It was so odd trying to take a photo them. I felt like a paparazzo. You feel like you should be able to say something but you can’t.
I took some very, very bad video of a couple cars on the track. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of video taping live action events, so forgive me.
Here’s a quote from David Gilliland talking about the importance of Infineon:
“People used to think, ‘This is Sonoma, a road race. I’m not good at road races.’ But now, with the points so close, you can’t give up on one race,” said Gilliland. “You can’t have a bad race anymore and expect to be up front. It’s too competitive now, so people are starting to take it more seriously.”
Sam Hornish Jr. chatting on his cell phone during the testing session at Infineon Raceway. (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
This is the back of J.J. Yeley discussing stuff with his crew at Infineon Raceway. (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
And now the back of David Gilliland talking one of his crew members at Infineon Raceway. (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
More photos of the cars in my Flickr account!