All posts in NASCAR Auto Club Speedway Weekend (02/08)

3 Posts

cleaning the nuts

Credit: The Fast and The FabulousWhen I was at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Sunday I talked to some of the crew members from David Gilliland’s No. 38 team. I wasn’t prepared to talk to them; I did it on a whim to see if they’d be willing to talk to me at all since A.) They were busy doing something and B.) They didn’t know me from Adam.

I was delighted when I found that not only were they totally fine about talking to me, after checking out my media credential, but they were also really cool, nice guys. Young, really cool, nice guys I might add. They were all under thirty and this fact kinda caught me off guard. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting them to be around my age. I suddenly thought “hey, these are guys my friends could date!” and in my head that brought everything back to reality for me. At the end of the day they’re just any other dude you’d see in a bar or event. Usually when I see drivers, crew members, and team PR people at the track, I always think of them being so “official.” Like they’re untouchable or something and you shouldn’t dare speak to them unless you have an “in.”

Jason, Ben, Greg, Bryce, Kyle and Tim were more than willing to answer my questions. I asked if they ever get hit on by groupies and Jason remembered how he’d seen three sets of women’s breasts on the glass of the garage at Daytona this year. I was shocked. What are those women thinking?? The guys are just going to drop everything and ask for their number? Weird.

I asked if they ever get to hang out with Gilliland. They see him mostly at the shop and sometimes he takes ‘em out to dinner. The resounding response overall though was that he was a really nice guy.

As I was standing there, talking to these guys, a small crowd started to gather around us. Apparently everyone wanted to watch them “clean their nuts.” They needed to clean the inside of the nuts, that would later be glued to the tires, so that they’d run on and off the studs easier during tire changes. The process involved a drill and a really long bit of some sort.

If any of those nuts fell on the ground during the process they had to be tossed. It’s bad luck to put it on the car after it’s been on the ground, so a couple lucky kids got to have the undesirables as souvenirs.

If I get the chance to talk to them again, when they’re not busy, I’ll take the photo of them that I forgot get the first time!

no country for rain delays

wet pit roadOk. So here’s the deal. I went down to La La Land (aka Los Angeles) Saturday morning. I would have left earlier like on Thursday but I had long standing plans with friends that I wasn’t willing to break. Luckily because of the rain I really hadn’t missed anything by the time I arrived at the Auto Club Speedway on Sunday morning. Qualifying had been cancelled and practice was minimal. So the story was the rain. When would it stop? Would it stop? When would they start the race? Could they get both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races done the same day?

I have to say that watching a rain delay on TV is a lot less painful than it is to witness first hand. When you’re at home you get to watch all of the pit reporters go around interviewing the drivers. When you’re there in person it’s a totally different story. Watching those jet engine dryers go around and around the track was as boring as you’d expect watching dryers go around a track would be. I went through the garage a couple times but because of the rain and the wind and the cold it wasn’t very much fun. Trying to hold on to my umbrella and keep my camera dry was kind of annoying.

Anyway, besides all of that I had a good time at the track for the short time I was there. I left at around 4 to get back to my sister’s house to watch the Oscars with the family. Although if I had known the Oscars were going to be that lame I wouldn’t have left. When I was driving out of the track I heard about the Casey Mears crash, and watched on the big Sprint Vision screen as Casey was pulled out of his mashed up car.

I’m getting ahead of myself. When it was still raining earlier in the day, before the jet dryers were out on the track, I walked down pit road. Some of the crew for David Gilliland’s team were in their pit area cleaning nuts. I stopped and talked to them and it was really cool. I’ll post more about that later.

At driver introductions I got a close-up look at the Auto Club Speedway Umbrella Girls, basically a bunch of models that carry umbrellas. Anyway, I felt bad for them because they had to wear tiny little shorts with no leggings or stockings or anything. You could see the goose bumps on their legs. Crazy. Speaking of crazy, ok, ok, not really crazy, just weird, ZZ Top performed before introductions out on the grass in front of the start/finish line. When they were done they were scuttled off stage like they were the President surrounded by cops and security.

Anyway, back to the drivers. There was a girl and some dude, he might have been her boyfriend but couldn’t tell for sure, standing next to me who was seriously freaking out when Dale Earnhardt Jr. came into view. He was hard to spot at first. He had on a black hoodie over his race suit with the hood up and sunglasses on. He stopped to do some interviews before running up the stairs and under the tent of the stage — hidden again. The girl yelled, pleaded with him to come out again so she could take a picture but he didn’t budge.

On the other hand there was Carl Edwards. He has to be one of the most charismatic guys in NASCAR right now. Maybe he was just having a good day (or he knew he was going to eventually win the race the next day) but he’s the one that interacted with fans the most, at least from my vantage point that is. He walked up on to the platform, and then walked to the end of the stage closest to where I was standing and proceeded to wink and smile at anyone that made eye contact with him. So yea, I have like a smallish crush on him now.

In other news…

– Check out my photos from Sunday at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (slideshow)

Actor Tom Cruise, with his son Connor, enjoys the Auto Club 500 on Monday, February 25th, 2008 from the pit box of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Actor Tom Cruise, with his son Connor, enjoys the Auto Club 500 on Monday, February 25th, 2008 from the pit box of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

it’s raining in california

I don’t know why the weather at this track is always so extreme. When I was here in 2006 for the Labor Day race, it was 100 degrees and too hot to live. Today it’s rainy, wet and miserable. You could also say that about me. The bottoms of my jeans are soaked thanks to some cleverly disguised puddles. That made the race track staff giggle.

I had to trek back to my car to drop off my laptop, as there was no room set aside for me in the media center. It’s cool, better to travel light anyway. This post is coming to you from cell phone.

I have seen some cool stuff though. I was witness to Charlotte Observer writer David Poole joking around with Larry McReynolds. Poole said that Larry Mac had never worked a day in life. All in fun of course.

I passed by Travis Kvapil coming out of the garage. It looked like he was headed for the motorcoach parking lot. Smart idea.