The Saturday of our 3M Racing Experience began with all of us gathering in the lobby of our hotel and then heading over to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Once there we were picked up and shuttled to the Fan Zone area, in spiffy 3M branded golf carts, at the entrance of the track.
We wandered around for a little while, grabbing food, checking out sunglasses and getting my free gift from Sprint for being their customer (it consisted of a hat, that my boyfriend stole from me and cheap cooler bag). There was a booth testing testosterone levels in men and I made my boyfriend go in but they said he was too young (29) to have it done. So he’s still good in the testosterone department, good to know.
We linked back up with the group and headed into the infield where I caught sight of Tony Lucca, the runner-up from The Voice and former member of The New Mickey Mouse Club from my childhood, who was set to sing the National Anthem later that night.
In the garage we went into the hauler for the No. 16 3M team and were greeted by Ryder who drives the hauler. He gave us the tour and showed us where & how everything they needed for a race weekend was stored & organized. We watched their shocks specialist work on shocks for the night’s race. Ryder drives the hauler to each race and straight home to Charlotte after every race, except when they’re out in Phoenix and then heading to Las Vegas the next week. In that case they have another truck that brings out everything for all of their Roush Fenway teams in Phoenix and that’s how they replenish & change cars when it doesn’t make logistical sense to go back to Charlotte.
Next up was the 16’s crew chief, Matt Puccia. He was a super nice guy and it wasn’t until speaking to him that I realized that teams never get to test their cars at night on tracks that they’ll race at night. Isn’t that strange? Considering how much money teams put into having a leg up on everyone else, you’d think they’d figure out a way to test at night. Especially since the track changes so much from day to night.
Anywho, we had a break then to go and watch Blake Shelton’s infield concert. We didn’t watch the show because there were a million people in front of the stage and it just didn’t seem worth it. Especially since they were showing it on the world’s largest HDTV screen between turns two and three, there was really no need. Instead we wandered around on pit road and then into the Budweiser area where their famous Clydesdale horses were on display. They are SO beautiful, seeing them on TV doesn’t do them justice. Gorgeous creatures, except for when they decide to turn around and crap in front of your face. Ew.
When the group met up again we were met by 3M driver Greg Biffle. Everyone asked him a couple questions and I asked if he felt any extra special pride in coming from the West Coast and he definitely does. He feels a special pride in being from Washington state (along with Kasey Kahne) in proving that guys from outside of the south or midwest can be very successful in NASCAR. If Greg wins the Sprint Cup Championship this year he will be the first driver to ever win in each of NASCAR’s national touring series.
After Greg we all met Jack Roush (the one person my boyfriend was starstruck about). He was asked about competition and I asked him what he thought could be done to make it better. He feels that anyone can drive a car at this point and that it’s all about engineering at this point.
We moved into the driver’s meeting room at that point. The driver’s meeting was the longest one I’ve ever been to because they had to spend a lot of time explaining the rules of the All-Star Race. A couple guys asked some clarifying questions but that was it.
From the driver’s meeting we went back to the grandstands to our suite. That was the first time I’d seen a race from a suite or the grandstands at an oval track. We watched the Sprint Showdown from there and it was a great treat to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. win something!
We went back to the track after that for the driver introductions for the All-Star Race. We cut through the garage were all of the pit crews were gathered so that they could be introduced with their drivers. It was there that I got the Obligatory Ron Malec photo, which I have to admit was odd to do considering my boyfriend was by my side. So he got a photo of me taking a photo of Ron Malec. So funny. But I don’t take that photo for just me, I do it for you!
After the driver intros we went over to the No. 16 3M pit box where we hung out for the start of the race. The best thing was getting to see all of the children on hand for the crew guys. I saw a ton of kids helping their dads out in the pits, from sweeping the pit box to pulling lug nuts off of tires they hadn’t used, to helping their dad wheel tires back to the hauler. My heart melted every time. That’s really the best part of the races in Charlotte, that the crew guys get to spend more time with their families. Those guys spend 7 days a week working sometimes so it’s extra special that they get any quality time with their kids.
We stayed in the pits for the entire race, listening to the team on the radio and then alternating between watching the track action on the frontstretch and then on the HDTV screen on the backstretch. It was super disappointing when Biffle’s car lost it’s engine and caught on fire. We were all glad he was OK.
And then Jimmie Johnson won. And then we went back to the hotel. The end!
It was a wonderful trip and I am SO thankful to 3M for bringing me out to Charlotte for the race and everyone at Roush Fenway Racing for their wonderful hospitality!
(All photos credit The Fast and the Fabulous, unless otherwise noted)