After driver introductions I slogged back through the grass and onto pit road. I felt awkward about where to stand for the National Anthem. It’s hard to not feel like you’re in the way, plus should I really be out there anyway? I decided to split the difference and I stood at one of the garage entrances, which also left me standing just behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pit crew and in front of Jimmie Johnson’s. I looked behind me and there was Ron Malec, car chief and rear tire carrier for the No. 48, looking insanely gorgeous. I’m sorry but that guy is really, really cute. Like really, every time I saw him over the weekend I had to take a moment.
Everybody lined up and then they introduced Gavin DeGraw as a country singer. That was funny. I think I snorted. And then a few of the guys from the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard team said, in unison, “Who???” I think I snorted at that too. Ahh, good times, good times. Later on I caught sight of Gavin taking a seat in Kurt Busch’s pit box next to Kurt’s wife Eva.
I watched the race start and then went back to the media center to eat dinner. That’s another great thing about being in the media center, free food. It really is a great benefit; I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to eat the whole time I was at the track.
I didn’t want to watch the whole race from the lunchroom, and I didn’t want to stand on pit road all night killing my lower back in the process, so I walked down the road to the grassy area next to the infield tunnel. I sat on the grass and watched the cars roll through the space between turns three and four. It was a great place to sit and watch the cars go by. Obviously I had no idea what was really going on with the cars and the drivers that drove them. But I knew that nothing wonderful was happening for Dale Jr. or the Yates Racing guys ’cause their numbers weren’t on the pylon. Well they were but just waaaay down at the bottom where it scrolled through the running order two places at a time.
As odd as it may seem it was really peaceful sitting there. I had earplugs in and it dulled the roar of the engines nicely. I waited until they hit 200 laps before walking back to the pits. I stood behind the pits for the Dave Blaney and the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota. At one point the crew chief and some other dude were visibly pissed about something that happened to their car because it caused both of them to take their anger out on the pit box.
The end of the race was a rollercoaster. I was up when Carl Edwards took the lead and then down when he lost it. I was up when Jimmie took the lead and then I stayed down when he lost it too. If only he could have held on. If only.
I went into the garage and took pictures of Dale Jr. talking to a TV crew. Carl was next to him doing the same. I caught some of the press conference with Jimmie and Kevin Harvick and then I left just before it was over. I saw both of them as they walked out the back of the media center.
Yet again getting out of the track was a breeze. So remember how I said that I thought I had finally gotten the hang of driving in Chicagoland? Well of course on my last trek I realized I had never taken the right way back to my hotel. I had never gone the exact route my navigation system had initially specified. At some point I had always taken a wrong turn and then it recalculated to get me on the right path. This ended up being kind of a cool thing.
There are two things Joliet is famous for in my mind (besides being the home of Chicagoland Speedway of course). One, it’s the hometown of the very first America’s Next Top Model winner, Adrianne Curry (wife of the guy who played Peter on The Brady Bunch) and two, it’s also home to a ginormous prison that they used to film FOX’s drama Prison Break.
So going into my trip I wanted to see the prison. On my final, and correct, drive back to the hotel I got to see Joliet Correctional Center! The prison isn’t open anymore, they closed it back in 2002. But ok, so it was at night and actually really kinda freaky — especially when you add in the “Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers” sign that sits across the street from it — but it was also cool!
So that was my Chicagoland weekend. The next day, Sunday, I checked into a hotel in downtown Chicago and went to the Gavin Rossdale concert at the House of Blues. At some point I’m going to write about that experience in my other blog.
I had so much fun at the races. On the plane to San Francisco I knew that I wanted to go home, ’caused I missed it and my family, but at the same time I really, really wished I could go to Indy next week.
Car chief and rear tire carrier Ron Malec before the start of the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 12, 2008. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
The crew for the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet before the start of the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 12, 2008. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
The pit crew for the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota prepare to go over the wall during the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 12, 2008. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks with media after the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 12, 2008. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)