Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California started out with the customary trip to THE Starbucks. I call it “THE Starbucks” because it’s the one everybody goes to during the race weekend, and by everybody I mean literally everybody. It could be groups of fans apart of some racing package deal or pit crew members, PR people, and NASCAR drivers. I always see someone. On Saturday morning it was Michael Waltrip and Michael Waltrip Racing general manager Ty Norris. Sunday I chatted about the weather with a pit crew guy that recognized me from the garage.
I got to the track early enough to hopefully make it out for the pace car rides but that wasn’t gonna happen because it was drizzling rain. So I hung around in the garage taking shelter underneath the No. 33 hauler since it was right next across from the garage entrance and I was waiting for Heather to arrive. Once she got there we hung around there for a while until it was time to go over to Trevor Bayne’s hauler to interview him using the “Inside the Actor’s Studio” questions. But first he had to a couple on-camera interviews with some gaming websites, or somesuch. They were asking him about the new NASCAR video game that’s coming out (or is it out now?). Anyway we watched him do that and as one of his guys made lunch that consisted of barbecue ribs and scalloped potatoes that looked sooo yummy. I think my new goal will be to get in good with a race team so that I can have lunch with them. They make the best food. They were deep frying french fries at Aric Almirola’s hauler on Friday, along with some beef that looked like it would make a great philly cheesesteak sandwich.
So I got my time with Trevor inside his hauler and I can tell you that his responses were the POLAR opposite of Kenny Wallace’s. So funny. But Trevor was very, very nice and I think you’ll dig his answers.
Once that was over we wandered around until it was time for the driver’s meeting. I went inside and hugged the wall for the entire meeting. It’s always ridiculously packed there, but it was sort of worth it because I finally saw someone ask a question when they asked if there were any and it came from Mark Martin. I don’t remember what issue was exactly, it was something about tires and pit crews and things getting out of control. So they wanted people to pay more attention and Mark asked for clarification on what exactly was going on. I don’t remember what the response was. Remember I was sucking my stomach and trying not to breath on the guy standing inches in front of me, so I had other things on my mind.
After the driver’s meeting, Heather and I were standing in the garage near the meeting room and I saw Richard Marx. Something came over me and just willed me talk to him. I have no idea what it was but words were coming out faster than I could process them. I think I said something to the effect of “Richard, I think you’re amazing. You’re one of the greatest singer/songwriters ever. I love your music. It’s best stuff ever.” I basically said everything short of “I want to have, like, 10,000 of your babies.” Seriously. He was so nice; he said “Thank you,” asked what my name was and shook my hand. It was an awesome moment. There is a very small group of famous people that I would feel compelled to go up to them and tell them how much I love them. Richard Marx is apparently one of them. (I have made a request to at least one person who works for NASCAR to get John Mayer out to a race, and now that Bradley Cooper is single again they need to get him back out to a race as well.)
And then right after that awesome moment, some guy asks me who that was and I was like “Richard Marx, dummy!” I didn’t say that exactly, but once he told me he’d never heard of him I basically told the guy that was he nuts and hello “‘Endless Summer Nights’!!, HELOOOOO! You’ve never heard of ‘Right Here Watiing’??!” This man disgusted me. I’m not even exaggerating. I was really annoyed that this person did not understand the genius that is Richard Marx.
Anyway, Heather and I wandered the garage again and noticed a huge crowd next to Jimmie Johnson’s hauler. Jimmie was there with Christian Slater and his son, Jaden. Christian was the Grand Marshal for the race, which was a nice touch since he has a new show airing on Fox called “Breaking In,” which Jimmie will make an appearance in in a couple weeks.
We made our way out to the pits where it was a complete madhouse. People were everywhere and security was busy kicking out all of the people that didn’t have hot passes before the start of driver introductions. That’s where Heather and I parted ways. I had so much fun hanging out with her that weekend. We’ve gotta do that again.
They were busy drying the track from the morning’s rain so they setup the stage for driver intros on pit road. From the backstage area I was able to snap photos of former boxer Sugar Ray Leonard who was the Honorary Starter and brothers Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte. I got really good shots of drivers standing backstage, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. chatting with Joey Logano and David Reutimann sitting all by himself checking his cell phone. I almost wanted to say something to him but I couldn’t come up with anything clever.
As driver intros wound down I walked down pit road to figure out where I was going to stand. I decided I wanted to be close to the terrace press box where I’d be sitting for the race and that was also where one of the entrances to pit road sat so I wasn’t in danger of standing in someone’s pits. That always feels awkward to me. I ended up near Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s cars.
I’ve decided that one of the things that you must be able to do really well if you want to be a PR person for Dale Jr. is yell at people to get back. The one way to tell if Dale is standing at his car is if you see a big row of people standing behind a line (this also applies to Danica Patrick when she’s on pit road).
There were a ton of people around because I was standing in the vicinity of two such popular drivers but these people were getting on my nerves. First of all, when the invocation started they wouldn’t get out of the way of the pit crews who ALWAYS line up on the outlines of their pit boxes. Apparently the people in front of me didn’t get that memo ’cause they kept standing in the way as crew guys squeezed them out. It was funny and also really dopey. Then while the invocation was going on they were talking, so I started giving people dirty looks. I don’t care what you believe, it’s out of respect that you shut up when the prayer is being said. Duh!
Once the National Anthem was done by Richard Marx (beautifully I might add!:)) I went up to the press box to watch the start of the race. I stayed up there for most of the race and then went down to the pits for the final 15 laps.
It was so insanely cool to see Kevin Harvick’s pass on Jimmie Johnson for the win. That was too cool. Two Southern California natives duking it out for the win at the only So Cal race on the schedule. Too perfect, but the local TV media totally missed that. Later that night I had to wait forever for them to mention the race at all and when they did they glossed over the fact that Harvick is from Bakersfield and Johnson from El Cajon. Which led me to my latest theory that the reason why NASCAR races in So Cal don’t get a ton of attention is because of the local media. At Las Vegas it was the polar opposite, the NASCAR race LED the news, like, almost everyday of the race weekend. I know L.A. and the areas around it have a bunch of other pro teams to talk about it, but you could make it at least a little bit special considering there’s only ONE race this year. Ugh. Sorry I had to get that off my chest. So annoying.
So as soon as the race was over I raced across pit road along with all of the people that had Victory Lane access so I could get in place to get a good shot. This is yet another time where the Hard Card comes in handy. I got to be inside of the roped off area and got some shots of Harvick entering Victory Lane.
It was then that I noticed American Idol alum David Archuleta nearby. He sang the National Anthem before the start of the Nationwide Series race the day before so it was cool to see that he came back the next day to see the Sprint Cup race too. He was standing right next to me so I asked him if I could take his picture and then he asked the people he was with if he looked OK. They assured him he looked great. So I snapped the shot (at right). Doesn’t he look like he’s 10-years-old? You wouldn’t think he’s going to turn 21 this year.
I didn’t stay in VL long because I wanted to make sure I got to the driver’s meeting room in time for the post-race press conferences with the top-3 finishers. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson were up first and then at the end things got kind of silly.
One of the actor’s from the TV show “Breaking In” sat at the end of my row and raised his hand to ask a question. It was Michael Rosenbaum, who has been in numerous movies (Sorority Boys, Sweet November) but you’d probably remember him most from the TV show “Smallville” where he played Lex Luthor. I had no idea it was him ’cause he was wearing sunglasses and a hat. Instead I looked at him like he was crazy because he started out his question by plugging his show and saying “I’ve never finished top-3 in anything so congratulations” and then proceeded to ask Jimmie if he would rather act or race cars. Jimmie was laughing and said that he prefers his job over acting. As Mr. Rosenbaum asked his follow-up question, “Do you think actors are pansies?” NASCAR cut him off and went on to the next question. Yea, that kind of thing does not make NASCAR happy.
A little bit later on Kevin Harvick came in and had his media session. And then that was it, it was all over. Later that night I was so sad because I wanted nothing more than to go on to Martinsville the next week. One day going to all of the races will be a reality for me. I’m sure of it.
And as for the digital recorder that I lost, it turned up a Starbucks that I go to all the time at home. Thank God because it had all the interviews from Las Vegas I haven’t posted yet. This week I’ll get crackin’ on posting all of those interviews plus the ones from Fontana. Lots of good stuff.