Thursday evening in Fontana, after I checked into my hotel just down the street from the race track, I discovered I forgot my cell phone charger at home. So I went to a Best Buy down the street to get another one. Then in the morning I woke up and found that I had left the pouch that holds all of my cords, USB drives and–most importantly–my digital recorder that still had a bunch of interviews on it from Las Vegas that I had yet to transcribe. I made a silent prayer that it was somewhere safe and then headed back to Best Buy to buy another one ’cause I had interviews to do that day.
I eventually got to the track in time to interview Aric Almirola at his hauler inside the Nationwide Series garage. That day I’d scheduled interviews with just Nationwide Series drivers Aric, Ryan Truex, Robert Richardson Jr., Kenny Wallace and tentatively Jeremy Clements.
I know I’m getting some of the timing of things out of whack, but I think it was after I talked to Robert Richardson Jr. that I met up with Heather. I met Heather in person at Auto Club Speedway for the first time a couple years ago. She’s a family friend of David Gilliand, and she knew me from my interviews with David and one year we were both in the garage and just met up. She’s a mom, a wife and serious Kasey Kahne fan. She was the perfect person to hang out with in the garage because she’s true NASCAR fan–it was her birthday that day and what she wanted more than anything was to be there for the race weekend.
Plus we’re only a year apart in age, so we got on really well with each other–chatting about things like which guy from New Kids on the Block we were sure we were going to marry when we were kids–and so we spent the majority of our time together that weekend walking the garages, taking pictures and sharing all of the best NASCAR stories we had with each other. And so when it was time for me to interview Kenny Wallace at his hauler Heather came with me. We were there a little bit early so we stood outside and chatted with the sister-in-law to Brack Maggard, who is a co-owner of Kenny’s team with RAB Racing.
Then Kenny showed up and we followed him to the back of his hauler where we watched him do an interview over the phone with Dave Moody on Sirius XM. Robby Benton, the owner & general manager of RAB Racing, showed up and sat in on the interview too. I had no idea he was only 31-years-old.
Once Kenny’s radio interview was over, we got to my “Inside the Actor’s Studio” questions. It was in a word: HILARIOUS. He was the most honest and straightforward interviewee I’ve ever had. I cannot wait to get that sucker posted and share it with you guys. Kenny is everything you’ve seen on TV or heard on the radio. Such a great guy and great host.
And then my next interview, and as far as I knew my last interview of the day, was with Ryan Truex. The time I spent with Ryan was the polar opposite of my time with Kenny. Like, here’s this young guy, and I do mean young, who was constantly drawing blanks with almost every question. It was the most awkward interview I’ve done to date (well, except for that time with Paul Menard a few years ago). Don’t get me wrong, Ryan was nice, and I asked him if he’d talked to Danica Patrick since their altercation at Bristol this year and he said no, but he’s got so much ahead of him, a lot to learn & experience.
The day’s schedule for practicing got messed up because of the rain, so the Sprint Cup drivers one practice sesh was pushed back which led to the push back of the Nationwide Series’ superlong practice sesh. So at some point Heather and I went separate ways for awhile, think it was during the Sprint Cup practice once it finally started and I went to get lunch in the media center lounge. The PR person for Jeremy Clements had given me his phone number and told me to just call him anytime. So I called him to see if he was free to talk, and we met up at his hauler.
We sat in the back of it, in the kitchen/living room area, and I got to meet his supernice crew chief Ricky Pearson. He was making his lunch at the time and offered to make me a sandwich too. It looked really good; turkey, sprouts, cucumber and other tasty stuff.
Jeremy was also supernice and I loved how thoughtful he was in answering each question. And ladies, he’s also ridiculously good-looking, so you should follow this guy. My fave part was getting to ask him if Boudreaux’s Butt Paste would come back as a sponsor for him, he wasn’t sure but it would be nice if they did. Who couldn’t use a sponsor? Frankly, they’re the whole reason why I know of Jeremy, I mean, that name gets attention. Plus the baby on their logo is cute. So I hope they come back and work with him again.
After saying goodbye to Ricky and Jeremy I headed back to the media lounge to have lunch, for real this time. Then later on it was time for Kasey Kahne’s media session that had been pushed back because of everything else that had been pushed back that day.
So Heather and I met up again and sat in on the super short session. After we left the meeting room we just walked the garage again and then this is where things got interesting. So we’re walking and we see Kasey walking too, but this time he’s got his lunch in his hands, a bowl of chili in one and some plate of something in the other. Heather is closest to him and I drop my cell phone and as I look up I see Heather next to me talking to Kasey who’s walking next to her.
I hear her saying something about it being her birthday that day and something about how I’ve been wanting to interview him. And then she tells him that the only thing she wants for her birthday is for him to let me interview him. And he agreed to this!
I thought it was funny and neat that he said yes, but at the same time I felt a little awkward about it since I’d been in an email exchange that week, that day even, with Kasey’s PR person from Red Bull about doing the interview with him in Charlotte when he had more time. So I didn’t want his PR person to think that I put Heather up to this and that I wasn’t professional, or that I was irritated that I couldn’t get Kasey sooner. ‘Cause that totally wasn’t the case. But on the other hand I wasn’t mad at Heather at all. I mean, it was her request and I didn’t ask her to do this.
So Kasey went into his hauler, ate his lunch I’m assuming, and then came out to do some TV thing, and then he motioned for us to come over and that it was OK. I apologized to his PR person, telling her I had no idea she’d asked him for this and I was OK with waiting and all that. She seemed fine about it. So then I interviewed Kasey, using the ten “Inside the Actor’s Studio” questions. He had somewhat of a hard time coming to the answers, looking for help from his PR people, but overall we got some good stuff. I don’t know if Kasey is “shy” but he’s definitely mild-mannered and relaxed.
When it was all over we thanked him and went on our way. We hung out in the Nationwide Series side of the garage for Sprint Cup qualifying. We could see the cars as they came through the garage and into the media bullpen where the top-3 cars stop after their runs. We basically spent the entire time trying to stay warm. It’s funny, it was so cold that day and the weather was annoying but there was seriously no where else in the world I would have wanted to be. I have got it bad for this NASCAR stuff. I surprise myself sometimes. But I’ve also decided that Auto Club Speedway needs to invest in some outdoor space heaters for people like me.
So after qualifying we caught some of Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and the pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya’s post-qualifying official press conference and then we headed for the garage exit.
This happened to be at the exact same time that Kasey Kahne was exiting the garage. So I have to take a page from “The Golden Girls” and my fave character Sophia in explaining what happened next.
Picture it: Fontana, California, 2011. We’re about to walk out of the Sprint Cup Series garage when I slowed down to take a picture of Ryan Newman talking to a group of people with a couple of service dogs. I snapped the picture and was busy posting it to ‘Fabulous’ News only looking up every so often to make sure I didn’t bump into anyone. At one glance I noticed Kasey and then I noticed Heather going up to him to tell him sorry for earlier. He said that she said it was only 3 questions, when it turned out to be 10 and she claimed she never said that. For the record, I don’t remember what she said.
And this weird thing occurred where I realized I was walking and Kasey Kahne was walking right beside me and he was talking to Heather who was on the other side of me. And then there was a moment where we’re just standing there and I’m messing with my phone–the HTC EVO Shift™ 4G from Sprint–and he takes out his phone and asks me how I like my phone. I see his phone but it doesn’t register in my head that we have the same one. His honestly looked a little different. So I launch into this whole thing about how I like having options with the keyboard (an actual keyboard versus the touchscreen). And then I think I must have asked him about his and he said that we had the same phone, but I didn’t catch that so Heather said it again and then I was, like, “Oooooh, cool.” Such a nerd moment. We were standing across from the driver’s lot and some guy that works for him drove out and picked him up and they left.
I know this sounds silly but it was big to me. I know that NASCAR drivers are just dudes at the end of the day, that just happen to have an extraordinary job, but it always tickles me to talk to one of them, and in this case, to have just a regular person to person conversation with them even if I wasn’t paying close enough attention to what he was saying. I was NOT expecting him to talk to us like that. I’m terrible at small talk, really gotta work on that one.
Anyway, we continued on to my car and noticed just ahead of us were Trevor Bayne and Michael McDowell. I was surprised they had parked in the same lot I was in, I figured they had some special drivers lot even for Nationwide guys.
I ran after Trevor thinking that I could possibly do the ITAS questions with him just before her got in the car, but that wasn’t going to happen because his car was close and he stalled on the first question. So I told him I’d try to get him later that weekend (not thinking that I actually would).
I drove Heather to her car in another parking lot within the track, and then we both went back to our hotels to get ready to go out to dinner for her birthday. It was neat to drive out of the track and see Jason Leffler, using the speakerphone on his cell phone, in the car next to me.
We ended up at Dave & Buster’s that night with a plan to play Skeeball after we ate. We ran into Don Rohr who works for Brian Vickers. Apparently that was where Brian’s team dinner was being held that night. It was funny ’cause I saw Brian’s tweet about it earlier and thought nothing of it. There are a MILLION restaurants around Auto Club Speedway (I seriously think they have one of every national restaurant chain in that area) so there’s no way of knowing where they’d end up. We saw Brian later on racing against his guys in the handful of NASCAR racing games D&B had against one wall.
So that was Friday. It was a really good time.