First, I apologize for taking so long to write about Sonoma. Life, work, blah, blah, blah.
I arrived at the track on Friday and immediately met up with my friend Kristen in the media parking hill (everything at Sonoma Raceway is on a hill). I’ve told you about Kristen before, she’s got an “in” with the No. 22 Penske team and she’s one of my absolute favorite people to hang out with at a race.
The first driver I saw on Friday morning was Jimmie Johnson, he was talking to a fan or maybe it was a woman who had a connection to his team or something, I’m not entirely sure, but it made me wonder how many conversations drivers have with fans that they just do out of kindness. Just think of all the stories they’ve heard about so-and-so and that car they wrecked or that friend of a friend’s nephew who raced with him when he was coming up through the ranks. That’s a LOT of stories, people.
Anyway, Jimmie was filming something with Sammy Hagar, which I found out from Clint Bowyer’s Twitter account was a music video.
Since they changed the qualifying deal this year all the teams were doing that day was practice and the drivers had their media availability sessions. Although the top-10 drivers didn’t all do them, for some reason. I only saw Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon. Clint came in at the end of Matt’s session and sort of heckled him, which was great because Clint Bowyer always makes anything better when he walks into a room. Seriously, the guy is a character.
Being in the garage for the first time this year gave me completely conflicting feelings. On Friday, I was sort of over it, maybe even thinking that I might be over writing about NASCAR altogether. Then on Saturday I felt better about it, because I interviewed a couple drivers and ESPN’s Marty Smith hugged me because he’s the NICEST person in the garage (more on that in the next post). By Sunday, I was all-in again, I still wasn’t sure how I was going to continue this thing but I got so many great shots and felt more like myself that I thought I couldn’t stop doing this.
Case in point, after practice was over I was standing in the garage talking to Kristen and a NASCAR official when we saw Brad Keselowski signing autographs for a couple of fans. It was a woman (maybe in her late 40s) with her teenage daughter (or maybe she was older? I’m not 100% sure, but she was YOUNG). We overheard the woman ASKING BRAD OUT for drinks! I said out loud “Did I just hear that??” Like, okay, I give the woman props for asking him at all but with your daughter right there?? Really?? I don’t know how Brad feels about cougars but that was very entertaining.
At the end of the day there was the usual media reception event inside of victory lane, just outside the entrance to the garage. Sonoma Raceway does it every year and it’s great, complete with wine and cheese. We were there for a little while and were about to leave when I spotted Ron Malec exiting the garage with a few other crew guys from the No. 48 team. One of my top priorities for ANY race weekend is to get the usual Obligatory Ron Malec Photo, and all day I couldn’t quite get a good shot of him. So I ran after him, calling his name and he stopped. I told him that I write a blog and how I always have to get his photo and the fans love it, blah, blah, blah. So he let me take his photo and it’s great. Here’s the thing I’ve realized, I’m so nervous about talking to him or guys like him (look for the Kasey Kahne story in the next post) that I never leave it open for them to say anything back. So I have no idea if he thinks I’m completely nuts (probably) or just a normal well-intentioned blogger trying to come up with creative content (please think that Ron because I am).
The things I do for you guys! Ok, ok, I do it for me, too.