I woke up at 4:30am to the sounds of soft rock playing from my alarm clock. I marveled for a moment at the fact that I didn’t feel super horrible waking up that early in the morning. I usually feel terrible and have to think of a million things to psych myself up to get going but I didn’t have to that last Thursday morning.
I knew that I had to get on the road as soon as possible in order to make it down to Los Angeles in time for the “Speedway Day L.A.” event with NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer. And even though I made one more stop than I usually do on my drive down the middle of California I still arrived on time, with a little time to spare.
I’d never been to that particular part of L.A. before so it was cool to see the courthouse where celebs like Lindsay Lohan reported for their many appearances and where a solid row of TV news crew vans were lined up for the jury selection portion of Michael Jackson’s dumb doctor’s trial. For, like, half a second I thought those crews might have been on hand for Clint but then I saw City Hall where the podium and signage for the bus tour had been set up with nary a TV crew or camera in sight.
I was very excited to see City Hall because all I could think about on the drive down from the Bay Area was the 1987 movie “Dragnet” featuring Dan Akroyd and Tom Hanks. And of course the infamous “Dragnet” theme music. Seriously, one of the greatest 80s movies, amiright?
The “Dragnet” reference alone was worth it for me, but other cool things happened too. Upon arrival I met two serious NASCAR fans, Amanda & Dominic (right), who met each other in 2005 at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) and then got married there last year along with a bunch of other couples on the start/finish line before the start of the Sprint Cup Series race. It was weird telling them that I, a complete stranger, had been at their wedding. They were super nice, fans of Richard Childress Racing and had won their spot on the bus from a contest ACS held on their Facebook page.
In all there were about 20 or so fans that got to be on the bus with Clint, ACS president Gillian Zucker and Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo. And then there were a handful of PR peeps for Sprint, Coca-Cola and media types like myself. The event began with a press conference on the steps of City Hall where an official from the city (not the Mayor) declared that day to be “Speedway Day L.A.” Then there were comments from Gillian and Clint. Clint answered a couple questions from Gillian and noted that this was the first time he was getting a chance to really see Los Angeles because usually he just flies in the for the race and is at the track most of the time.
That notion was a cool thing, I think. I mean, I have family in Los Angeles but I hadn’t done a lot of touristy things like the stuff we were going to do that day so it was fun getting to do them and have it be a NASCAR related event at the same time knowing that it was Clint’s first time to those areas. As a fan, it’s a really cool deal.
So we got on the bus and my first thought was to sit up top, and I did but I had to move because the front seats were reserved. I moved to sit next to a random dude, but then thought better of it and decided to go downstairs and sit down there. It ended up being a GREAT call because we got on the freeway to head to the first stop in Hollywood. It wasn’t hot outside at all, so I was totally fine not freezing my butt off on top of the bus.
Plus it didn’t really matter where you sat because once Clint, Gillian and Miss Sprint Cup were done playing a trivia game with the people up top they all came downstairs to do the game with those of us on the first level. And this was when Clint touched my shoulder and said “Hi, How ya doin?” I immediately got out a quick “Great! How are you?” In my head though, my mind was going a million miles a minute. First of all, he touched me. You got that part, right??? Then I’m wondering if he just did that cause I was the only girl on that level of the bus (I have no idea why that was) and I was by myself, or did he remember me from Las Vegas & Champion’s Week when I interviewed him using the ITAS questions?? I like to think it was the latter.
As soon as that millisecond moment went down they launched into a trivia game and gave away hats as prizes. Clint didn’t think anyone was going to know the answer to the second question which was “What year did Clint win the Nationwide Series Championship?” I knew the answer (2008) but I didn’t say it ’cause I thought a fan should win it and one of the guys got it right.
We made it to our first stop which was Elvis’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Clint is a huge fan of Elvis, which is why we stopped there but it was super funny when Clint walked up to the star with all of us around him, looked at it, then looked back at us and said “What now??!” Ha! I was wondering that myself, but everyone got to take pictures with Clint and ask him questions and get his autograph.
It was as we all walked down the street to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre that I realized what an awesome idea this was. We were this group of strangers that came together for a mutual love of NASCAR, and then you set that against a sea of tourists and we become this little “family” I guess you could say. It’s like we got to be friends of Clint Bowyer for a day, and hang out with him in Hollywood. It was neat, and I can’t remember the last time any other professional athlete was strolling around with a bunch of his fans.
At Grauman’s it was fun to see the crazy people in various costumes wandering around including the oldest Elvis impersonator I’ve EVER seen in my life, plus a sad looking Black Swan, a Storm Trooper from Star Wars, an Asian Michael Jackson, and a skeevy looking Spiderman that as he tip-toed closer I just wanted to get farther away from.
There was a beautiful memorial set up for Elizabeth Taylor who passed away the day before, just above her cement hand and feet imprints. The woman had incredibly tiny feet. I walked around and tried to find at least ONE male actor that had bigger feet than me until I thankfully landed upon Harrison Ford who has much larger feetsies that me.
While all this was going on Clint was on the phone doing a radio interview. Tim Haddock from Haddock in the Paddock and I went across the street to get coffee from The Coffee Bean. We made it back in time to get on the bus again and head to an In-N-Out Burger just around the corner.
Clint served Coke to patrons, of which there were MANY as the place was super busy. The rest of us hung out outside–some on the bus, some next to it–and waited for the free food to be delivered to us. I love In-N-Out cheeseburgers. So yummy. Some dude walked by and said “Welcome to Hollywood” as if we were all tourists, but I think all of the fans on the bus were from the L.A./SoCal area.
While we were eating Clint filmed a piece for Fox in front of the In-N-Out Burger sign and was interrupted by random people walking behind him, right through the shot. They said something and I’m not sure what, but they had Clint do his thing over again, but Clint was all “I think we should leave that in!”
Post In-N-Out we all got on the bus again, were treated to some magic tricks from a magician who can be seen at The Magic Castle, and then headed back to City Hall for the conclusion of the trip. We got the FULL L.A. experience ’cause we were stuck in traffic for the entire time we were on the freeway.
Back at City Hall it was time for a final group photo and another opportunity for people to get autographs from Clint. Then we all went our separate ways. Although not before I got stopped by a competing tour bus driver who had his bus door open. He asked what the hubbub was all about, and I told him about Clint. He wanted me to tell Clint that he wanted to challenge him to a race around the block. I told him he could run after Clint and tell him himself.
(all photos credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)