I woke up at 6am Sunday morning in New Hampshire and willed myself to get up so that I wouldn’t get stuck in race day traffic. SYLVANIA gave us a tip that we (their invited media peeps) should get on the road by 7:15am at the latest in order to miss the traffic melee. It worked because the drive to the track only took 25 minutes. I have to say that NHMS is by far my favorite track to drive to because the scenery is beautiful, but more importantly it was (basically) a straight shot from the hotel to the track, with one left turn and one stop at the drive-thru Starbucks on Loudon Road.
First order of business for the day was the pace car ride with NASCAR’s Brett Bodine. The pace car was a Toyota Venza. On Toyota’s website they say the Venza “Combines the performance of a sports sedan with the spaciousness of an SUV,” and I happen to agree with this statement, but it does look a bit odd when you first see it (like an oddly shaped minivan). Anyway, I’m mentioning this at all because it has this cool back-up camera built into the dashboard AND it’s super spacious and comfy in the backseat. Which is VERY helpful when you’re being driven by a professional driver at over 100-something miles per hour. While it’s performance is top notch I still had a feeling when we came off of Turn 2 and the car made this rumbly, “errrrrrrrrr!!!!” noise that maybe it wasn’t meant for racing purposes.
It was still an awesome experience and always opens my eyes to what it’s like to go that FAST. And as usual when I got out of the car I felt like all of my internal organs had been rearranged. That’s a feeling I highly recommend experiencing for yourself.
Next up was the driver’s meeting. While I have learned that the driver’s meeting is usually boring and it actually takes people longer to show up than to have the meeting, I still love going because it’s a ripe photo opportunity. Because the meeting was held in what was the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage there was a lot of room to move. I stood behind one of the monitors at the back of all the chairs, where an older man with a giant walking stick next to me played lookout and called out the names of the drivers as they walked in so that his wife could snap their pictures. He also offered to whack a guy with his stick for getting in the way of my camera. I almost took him up on it.
Post drivers meeting I went out to pit road for driver intros and stumbled upon the Montgomery Gentry pre-race concert that I forgot about. The “backstage” area was on pit road and the front of stage area, where all of the fans were gathered, was on the frontstretch of the track. A small group of pit crew members were next to the stage, watching the show. I walked directly behind the stage to get a shot of Troy Gentry (he’s REALLY good-looking, you guys) and Eddie Montgomery when one of their guitarists got in the way, saw me and said “sorry.” I was like like “It’s ok!” and gave him a thumbs up. I thought it was funny that he had the wherewithal to even notice me and apologize while he’s performing. So funny.
I walked pit road and took pictures of the race cars all lined up the way that I like them. They look so much better that way and so cool.
Then it was time to get into position to take pictures of people backstage at driver intros. Luckily, my only competition for real estate around the backstage area were the real pro photographers on assignment, so I didn’t have to worry about losing a good spot. Have I mentioned yet that Sunday was the hottest day of the entire race weekend? There were clear skies and a breeze here and there, but overall really hot and I searched the faces of other people for signs of sweat to make sure I wasn’t the only one that looked like they were melting.
Drivers trickled in and I overheard Jamie McMurray tell Andy Lally that his new AXE firesuit was his “superhero suit.” I have to agree with him.
You should know what when I’m at the track for race weekend I am filled with both confidence and extreme paranoia. The lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s song “Hand In My Pocket” describe this mixture of feelings perfectly. I have moments of feeling totally comfortable and happy and cool and then in the next second I can feel like an outsider, like everyone is looking at me wondering, “Why is she here???”
Which is why it’s perfect that I didn’t see how the following photo came out until I got home. I saw him looking out and just thought “take a photo!!” because trying to get a good shot of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is like trying to get a great photo of Big Foot. You don’t get a lot of opportunities (or at least, I haven’t in the past).
Shortly after that, I turned around after hearing fans calling out for Tony Stewart. He was there grappling with Rick Hendrick. The following photo is priceless.
Once all of the drivers were announced I walked down pit road a little bit to be in position to take shots of the guys as they came down the road in the back of their designated pickup trucks. The top-12 drivers in The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had to do some special introduction thing on the stage, so they got grouped together for their parade laps. I was leaning against the pit road wall when Denny Hamlin showed up just off to my right. He jumped over the pit road wall with just one hop and one leg, it seemed, right in front of me. I felt like I should of moved back but it only took him a second to complete the jump. I have to give him some props for his athletic ability, all of that basketball is paying off.
I stayed at the end of pit road closest to the stage and in front of Scott Speed’s car (the last car in the row) for the Invocation and National Anthem. Once that was over I went to the media center to charge my cell phone and watch the first few laps of the race. I had to leave in order to make it on to my flight home. By the time I got on the plane the race was over and I found out that Tony Stewart had won.
And THAT was my weekend in New Hampshire.
(All photos credit: The Fast and the Fabulous, except where noted)