I’m very late writing about my trip to Texas in October/November of last year, for which I apologize. Since it’s been such a long time I’m going to keep it to one post so I can hit the most important items.
— It turned out that I was flying to Texas on the same flight as Melody, a longtime reader of The Fast and the Fabulous. She was attending the race too and we got to chat on the ride over which was super fun. So glad I finally got to meet Melody in person. I also got to meet Heather, who lives in Dallas, at the track. Another awesome woman. As usual, I love meeting the people that read this site, you’re obviously amazing, smart and cool racing fans!
— My rental car in Texas was an SUV, a treat for myself since I normally drive a coupe and because everything is bigger in Texas, might as well have a car to match! My next car will be an SUV. My rental had bluetooth connectivity, which allowed me to connect my iPhone to the stereo. I know this isn’t a new development, it’s been around for a long time, but my car doesn’t have that ability and I’ve decided that I really need it.
– I stayed at the NYLO (NYLO Irving/Las Colinas) in Irving, Texas. They have “chic loft-style accommodations” and it was wonderful. I’d totally stay there again and I’d recommend it to anyone. I had a basic room that had exposed brick walls, a super comfy bed and a shower with a mirror on the wall. It’s kinda weird to watch yourself taking a shower but it grew on me. The hotel was only 30 minutes away from Texas Motor Speedway and traffic was never insanely bad, so it all worked out.
— Every night I was there I got dinner from Koi Xpress Hibachi and Roll. Why? It’s Japanese food and they had a drive-thru. After a long day at the track I never feel like having to make the effort of getting out of my car get food. Anyway, everything I got from there was great, I loved the miso soup and California rolls. I wish we had a Japanese restaurant with a drive-thru here. I sound like the laziest person in the world.
— I arrived on Thursday and went to the track on Friday afternoon. I got a SUPER late start because I had to attend to some medical issues, nothing serious. It sucked because by the time I got to the track I’d missed most of the driver media sessions. I still managed to catch Jeff Gordon’s at his hauler. There was a lot of talk about “pressure.”
— I met Johnny Herbert a reporter with Sky Sports, a TV network out of the UK who were in Texas to cover the Formula 1 race in Austin that same weekend. They had time so they came to TMS to talk to some drivers. They couldn’t get over how accommodating and open the drivers were. It’s a totally different culture in F1 racing, it’s really hard to get any good comments or answers out of them. I’ve heard this before from other writers who’ve covered F1 and then come to NASCAR and their minds are blown.
Also, fun fact about Johnny Herbert, he used to race in F1 and won three races in his career. He won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1991, too. He’s also a very nice man. I wish I could have had the opportunity to ask him more questions.
— I forgot to bring my camera. I know, that’s really weird and sad considering that taking photos is like basically my entire job when I’m at the track but I did. So I had to use my cell phone to take photos and I did a pretty good job, BUT I had to keep charging my phone throughout the day so I looked like noob standing around in the media center waiting for my phone to charge. I have since purchased a portable charger so I never have to do that again.
— The best food highlights in the media center were the frozen custard (so yummy!) and the nacho bar. The nacho bar was insane. It had chicken, beef, beans, cheese (melted and shredded, two kinds!), guacamole, salsa, everything. So freaking good. I still think about those nachos.
— After the Nationwide Series race ended I was leaving the media center which sits in between the Cup garage and the Nationwide garage and that’s when I got to see a few crew guys changing out of their firesuits into their street clothes. What a sight to see, a bunch of dudes in really good shape in their boxer briefs.
— Early Sunday morning I went to the track to take a pace car ride with Brett Bodine but Brett was late in getting there so they had Justin Allgaier fill in and take members of the media on full-speed laps around TMS. It was so much fun getting to go with Justin, a full-time Sprint Cup Series driver, and get his thoughts on the track. I think I asked him about how drivers liked TMS because you could drive on the top and the bottom and he agreed and said some other stuff that I can’t quite remember. He was super nice and drove the heck out of that car for us, even though he couldn’t take us down the front stretch because they were setting up for pre-race festivities already.
— On pit road just before the invocation and National Anthem, I watched as Tony Stewart recorded a voicemail greeting for a woman. Pit road was a mad house.
— So the BEST part of my trip to Texas was getting to sit on the pit box of the No. 7 team, Michael Annett was their driver (he has since joined HScott Motorsports for the 2015 season). This was all thanks to Hudson, Michael’s awesome PR guy I met at Sonoma in June of last year. From the pit box I was able to watch the end of the race and it was the perfect place to be because the No. 7 team was next to Jeff Gordon’s box. Those guys were going through ALL of the emotions in those last restarts. There was a moment when I caught Alan Gustafson’s eye while I was staring at him trying to watch his reaction to the on-track incidents with Brad Keselowski and I felt like the biggest butthead trying to see if this guy was going to freak out, so I quickly looked away.
— When the race was over I started walking to Victory Lane and noticed a couple of the guys from the 24 team running past me. I was like, “Why would they be running, they didn’t win and I know they don’t need to congratulate Jimmie Johnson,” and then I heard the crowd’s roar and I looked up at the giant screen and saw “the fight.” That’s when I started running towards it and I ended up almost running right into Jeff Gordon himself. His face was kinda bloody and I knew the fight was over. I missed it! But at least I got to see Jeff. Ha! Jeff was on his way into Victory Lane to see Jimmie and he had ESPN following right behind him to interview him. Then I tried to rush into Victory Lane, too to get photos of Jimmie getting out of his car.
— After that, I headed to the media center. On my way, I walked past Jimmie’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, and his girlfriend, Brooke Werner, heading to Victory Lane, which I thought was kinda weird. I don’t know, they were late.
— At the media center, I watched Brad Keselowski’s press conference where he said a lot of things that amounted to “sorry, not sorry” in regards to him spinning out Jeff Gordon. After his session was over I was behind him when some old guy grabbed him around the neck and told Brad he was just like Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Brad replied, “No, I’m Brad.”
— I went out to pit road again when the race was long over and there was a post-race concert. All of the cars from the night’s race were lined up at the opposite end, I’d never seen that before so I asked one of the crew guys what was going on. They were waiting to be loaded on trucks to go home while the cars for the next weekend’s race at Phoenix were being swapped out. It was neat to see them all there, super dirty and calm after all the mayhem that went on earlier in the day.
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