Something I’ve noticed as I go to more races is that I take less pictures. In the beginning I was taking photos of everything; tires, cars, etc. But now that I know the pain of uploading those photos to Flickr and having to write a title for each one, I’m a lot more discerning when it comes to choosing a photo subject.
My Friday at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) began with me walking from my car to the garage and happening to see Travis Kvapil walking out of the drivers/owners motorcoach lot at the same time. I was set to interview Travis a little later on that morning, but he noticed me then. He must remembered me from when I interviewed him at ACS in 2008. This was, and still is, a big deal to me. He knew we had a scheduled interview for that day and he ended up having time right then so we went ahead and got the Inside the Actor’s Studio questioning out of the way.
Because I feel like the underdog pretty much all the time, it felt like a super cool “win” to walk through the garage, past crew members and whoever was around, with a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver who actually REMEMBERED ME. Which is why Travis Kvapil is a super cool guy in my book. He really is genuinely nice and I cannot wait for a Sprint Cup win to come his way. I’ll talk more about him when I post the interview. He was the first driver to answer a particular question a particular way. How’s that for cryptic?
Anyway, after that I headed to the media center where I walked in on Kevin and DeLana Harvick’s press conference to announce the student-athlete scholarship they’ve established through their foundation for California State University, Bakersfield. Bakersfield being, of course, Kevin’s hometown. The first recipient of the full-ride scholarship was a female volleyball player.
I have never really been a big fan of Kevin Harvick in the past, I can be honest in saying that. But over the past couple of years, especially this year, he’s really grown on me. I’ve been digging the Harvick for a while now for his honesty and humorous Twitter posts, and I think DeLana is awesome because she was able to quickly take Joey Logano’s dopey comments and turn it into a positive with the advent of the “I wear the firesuit in this family” t-shirts AND she’s a fan of The Howard Stern Show like me. I know that last fact because she sometimes tweets about listening to the show.
With this scholarship though, they’ve tipped the scales and I totally love them for it. As someone whose sister was a student-athlete, I know how hard it is for them to juggle studying, practice, events and still excel in the classroom. This scholarship will really bring peace of mind to those who receive it in the future.
The main schedule for that day included the Top-12 drivers media sessions, practice and qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series. I tried to go to as many media sessions as possible but only the ones that were held in the drivers meeting room. When they have their meetups with the media at their haulers it’s pretty pointless from my perspective because half the time I can’t hear anything and everyone is all huddled together trying to get their recorder as close as possible to the driver’s mouth. Plus, they usually have transcripts of those things in the media center later on in the day. And there’s also the fact that some sessions are scheduled at the same time so you have to choose who you want to listen to, who has the better storyline that weekend: Carl Edwards or Jeff Gordon?
On top of all of that I put together a mini schedule of driver interviews for myself. In addition to speaking to Travis Kvapil, I got David Gilliland, Juan Pablo Montoya, Brad Keselowski, ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty and Marcos Ambrose to answer the ITAS questions that day.
As I do more and more of these ITAS interviews I realize how much of a psych test it can be, it’s really fascinating to watch people answer these seemingly simple questions. Having done it myself I’ve come to see how hard it is to answer them. You’re tempted to want to sum up yourself in one word but it’s impossible to do that. One thing people have asked me a lot when I get to the “What turns you on?” question is “In what way?” and my response is that it’s in whatever way you think. I try to not say anything because I don’t want to guide the response. It has to be all them and whatever answer that pops into their head. How they interpret that answer is what makes it so fun.
It reminds me of those court room scenes in the movies where Attorney A is questioning a witness and then Attorney B objects because they feel that Attorney A is “leading” the witness, in other words, trying to get them to say something in particular. I’m always neutral and trying to not “lead” anyone to a particular answer.
At the start of the first and only Sprint Cup Series practice that day I was in the garage watching the cars drive out to the track. Kasey Kahne stopped his car next to the NASCAR hauler, got out and signed in at registration. Every driver has to sign in and I guess Kasey forgot to do it earlier in the day.
Later on during qualifying I got to witness Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans losing their minds over him. It was fun to watch and listen to them yell for him to come over to the fence to sign stuff for them. And then fun to watch Dale and his reaction to them as he eventually turned to look in their direction, smile and wave back. Once his car was bumped out of the Top-3 he hightailed it outta there.
Which brings me to another observation about NASCAR drivers. They should all enter the Olympics in race walking. Those guys know how to walk super fast in an effort to dodge fans and get from point A to point B as fast as possible without jogging.
That being said NASCAR drivers are really awesome about responding to their fans and taking the time to sign things. As evidenced when after making his pole qualifying run and doing the necessary media interviews, Jamie McMurray made a beeline to a fan (photo below) standing at the garage fence who had been calling for Jamie since the moment he got out of the car. The guy asked him something that I didn’t hear but it made Jamie laugh and Jamie’s response made everyone else laugh. It was a cool little moment between a fan and a driver.
The No. 48 Lowe’s team work on their car the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Cars lined up for practice during the Pepsi Max 400 race weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
J.J. Yeley in the garage, heading to his car, before the start of Sprint Cup Series practice for the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Denny Hamlin taps the back of Carl Edwards’ car before they rolled out for practice for the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Kasey Kahne gets settled in his car — again — for practice in anticipation of qualifying for the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Juan Pablo Montoya heads to pit road to do his qualifying run for the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard chat in the garage during the Pepsi Max 400 race weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets ready to talk to Dr. Jerry Punch on ESPN after qualifying for the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
Jamie McMurray signs autographs for fans post-qualifying for the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Friday, October 8, 2010 (credit: The Fast and The Fabulous)
(all photos credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)