Sunday morning I woke up ridiculously early so that I could get to the track in time to get a ride in the pace car with Brett Bodine. This was my second time getting to ride around the Sonoma Raceway track but it had been long enough since the first time I’d done it to not remember what it felt like. Let me tell you this, Brett Bodine doesn’t lay off the gas pedal just because you’re not a race car driver. That guy went flat out and it was insane. It’s like riding a roller coaster and I hate roller coasters, but for some reason I wasn’t completely scared. I was more scared going on that ferris wheel last year than I was sliding around in the backseat of a passenger car that felt like it could roll over at any moment. The especially funny part was that the girl who sat in the front passenger seat had never taken a pace car ride before and at the end of it she yelled at her friend because she didn’t know that Brett was going to actually “race” around the track, she thought he’d just leisurely drive us around. So funny.
There wasn’t much of anything to do next because all of the Cup cars were going through inspection and the driver’s meeting wasn’t for a couple of hours. So I went over to the cafe that sits outside the garage entrance next to the main track entrance, ate a muffin I’d brought and people watched.
I watched James Durbin, a local guy who’d been a contestant on American Idol, arrive with his wife and son. He was on hand to sing the National Anthem. His son has to be like 4 or something and was super adorable. Every time he saw a car he got excited and named the color of the paint scheme.
Once it was time for the driver’s meeting I went over to the tent where it was being held. They’d moved it into a tent because they’d outgrown the room they’d always used but it was still packed anyway. As usual the announcing of the VIPs in attendance took longer than actually explaining the details of the race and question & answer section.
Once that was all said and done I headed down to pit road for driver introductions. I sat on the wall between pit road and the track near the No. 14 and No. 24 cars. From there I watched the Patriots Jet Team Airshow which was awesome, as usual. That’s one great reason to go to the race at Sonoma, the show consists of six jet planes and even though it was overcast it was still spectacular.
Once the drivers were announced they got on their trucks and drove right past me which made it a great spot to get photos. I love the one I got of Joey Logano where I think he was pointing right at me, but it could have been the No. 14 crew guys that were around me. I’m not entirely sure, but it’s a great photo. Tony Stewart’s crew chief, Steve Addington, came and stood right in front of me and I got a shot that I absolutely love of him and Alan Gustafson, Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, chatting.
I stood behind the pits for the start of the race and watched as the cars rolled out to begin the pace laps. That’s when I heard the crunch sound and looked up to see Paulie Harraka in the No. 52 crash into the back of the No. 19 car of Alex Kennedy. I’ve never seen anything like that before, who crashes before the race even starts? Everybody on pit road, even the crew guys were all “What was that??”
Once the race started I got lunch and then wandered around the pits a little bit. I went into the garage and realized that it was the best place to watch the race because I wasn’t in anyone’s way and I could still see the TVs mounted on the pit boxes. The only thing that would be have made it absolutely perfect is if I’d had a chair.
In the end I was so happy that Martin Truex Jr. won the race. The post-race press conference got emotional when ESPN’s Marty Smith asked Martin what and/or who got him through his long period of not winning. Martin talked about his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who happened to be standing next to me in the room. Once that happened I could hear her start to sniffle from crying. I didn’t have my tissues on me or I would have shared them with her. It was so sweet. Whenever Michael Waltrip said something off the wall, Martin would look at Sherry, as if to say “isn’t he crazy??” In a fun way, of course. It was obvious that they’re very close and it was really nice to see that he wasn’t afraid to show the personal side of his life.
And that, my friends, was my weekend in Sonoma. All in all it was a great weekend.