Carl Edwards prepares to practice for the LifeLock.com at Chicagoland Speedway. Edwards posted the quickest time in Friday's final practice. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)I have a new appreciation for Nationwide Series races. For one there are less people around for all of the pre-race festivities so it makes getting closer for photos a lot easier. It also seemed like security was a little more relaxed, not that they weren’t paying attention or taking care of things, it’s just that it felt like there was less hassle.

Before driver introductions began the pit crews pushed their cars out to pit road and drivers started walking out to the stage at the start/finish line. I was in the Nationwide garage debating whether or not I would even go out there. I decided it was worth it (I don’t know why I would think it wouldn’t be) and headed in the direction of the stage. When I stepped on to the grass I noticed a small commotion to my right. There was a cameraman walking backwards, and another guy helping him, while filming Carl Edwards who was walking about 6 feet from me. I couldn’t catch what he was saying or what they were filming it for, but they quickly finished and left Carl alone.

I was watching the whole thing and when the camera guy was gone I was still looking at Carl. He saw me and then smiled and said “hello” to which I said “hi” back. To be honest I don’t think I’ve smiled that big in quite some time. Just thinking about it makes me feel like a big geek. I can say this about Carl, when he looks at you, and really it seems whenever he interacts with people, he gives you his full attention even if it is just for a moment. He just oozes this really genuine nice guy vibe.

After our exchange our paths split. I was already replaying the whole thing my head over and over again as I walked up to the right side of the stage.

Being out in the grass, and then on the track itself right up against the grandstands is truly surreal. It’s like, can it get any better than this? That’ll never get old to me, never.

After driver intros I went back down to pit road for the anthem where I happened upon Joey Logano signing stuff for a fan and David Stremme’s totally packed pit box, and I caught the start of the race there too. I watched the majority of the race in the lunch room of the media center and then caught the last laps outside from behind Victory Lane.

We all know how the Dollar General 300 ended. Ugh.

I headed back to my car where I was invited to some sort of motor home/bus party by a random guy that I had never met before. Apparently he had been tasked by his friends to get all of the girls to their little shindig. I politely declined and headed back to my hotel. My driving experience going back to the hotel was way better than the day before since the sky was clear for the most part and I prepared my change for the toll roads in advance. I was finally getting the hang of driving around Chicagoland, or so I thought.


Joey Logano signs his autograph for fans on pit road before the start of the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Joey Logano signs his autograph for fans on pit road before the start of the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

The grandstands and the track before the start of the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

The grandstands and the track before the start of the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday, July 11, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

It was a full house for the first few laps of the Dollar General 300 in David Stremme's pit box (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

It was a full house with standing room only for the first few laps of the Dollar General 300 in David Stremme’s pit box (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)