All posts in NASCAR Infineon Weekend (06/08)

5 Posts

gilliland is the story

David Gilliland in the No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)The final laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 were literally killing me. I haven’t been that engaged in a race in quite some time. The fact that David Gilliland was running up front, realistically in contention for the win was seriously blowing my mind. In the end though he didn’t come up with the win but I feel like 2nd place is just as good.

I Tivo’d the race while I was at the track and I just watched it today. David’s smile in his post race interview was priceless. He was so happy and rightly so. He proved that he could contend with the likes of Jeff Gordon and come out on top.

On Sunday during the post-race press conference with the media his happiness still shone through, albeit subdued. I’m not one for chopping up quotes so here are some of my favorite parts from the Q&A with the media.

David on what he thought when he saw Jeff behind him in his rearview mirror:

GILLILAND: It’s not a comfortable feeling, I’ll tell you that. I grew up coming here, and so I wasn’t really surprised about having him back there for sure.

GORDON: You didn’t have anything to worry about, trust me.

GILLILAND: Our car was pretty good. On the restart before the last one, I got away from Jeff a little bit going up the hill, and so that made me a little more comfortable on the second one. But it was super slick the last lap as far as challenging for the lead. It was everything I could do just to stay on the racetrack. It was wild back there. It was incredible.

GORDON: You were up there.

GILLILAND: Yeah, up there; back there. (Laughter).

David responds to a reporter asking him if he feels his team is making progress towards becoming really competitive at the “bread and butter tracks:”

GILLILAND: Absolutely. That’s why we go to the racetrack each week. We’re working hard at it. It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. It’s a challenge each and every week, but definitely, I mean, you know, I feel like we definitely made an improvement on the mile and a half stuff. Our short track stuff has been much better than it was last year. Richmond we had the best car we had and were in the Top 10 and got involved in an accident.

Had a bit of bad luck, but definitely I feel like our performance has improved 90 percent from what it was last year. Our cars are much better and you talk to people and they say, you know, you’re just learning, experience, but you don’t really learn anything driving a car that shouldn’t even be on the racetrack.

So I’m having to relearn a lot of things this year and running up in the front with guys like Jeff Gordon, you know, you’ve got to earn that respect and that goes a long ways.

It’s just a steady process that we are chipping away at.


Jeff Gordon speaks with the press after the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Jeff Gordon speaks with the press after the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

David Gilliland speaks with the press after the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

David Gilliland speaks with the press after the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Chad Knaus walks the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet through inspection at Infineon Raceway

Crew chief Chad Knaus walks the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet through inspection at Infineon Raceway

Clint Bowyer sits on pit road before teh start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Clint Bowyer sits on pit road before the start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Boris Said takes a call at Infineon Raceway before the start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Boris Said takes a call at Infineon Raceway before the start of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Rear Tire Carrier and Car Chief Ron Malec steers the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet through inspection

Rear Tire Carrier and Car Chief Ron Malec steers the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet through inspection

my infineon clip show

There were a bunch of random things that occurred to me during the Infineon weekend and none of them deserved its own post so here they are:

– At Jeff Gordon’s press conference on Friday I was staring at him and noticed for the first time ever that he’s got grey hairs. It’s not like two, it’s like fifty. That was the precise moment when my camera decided to die so I have no proof. This all means nothing of course, but I just thought it was interesting ’cause he’s always had this boyish look to him and so you don’t associate that kind of thing, ya know, getting old, with him. :)

– When Oakland Raiders play-by-play announcer Greg Papa introduced Joe Nemechek as “Jerome” Nemechek pretty much everyone on pit road looked around with the same “What the???” expression on their faces. Next time it might be a good idea to get someone who actually knows NASCAR to announce the drivers. I’m just sayin’.

– Someone asked Carl Edwards “Beer or wine?” to which he replied “Neither.” This was kind of surprising to me, I mean I always figured him for a granola boy-type (and by “granola boy” I mean those guys who are all about fitness and eating healthy which can be really annoying when you’re, uhm, not) but I didn’t think he went that far. I couldn’t hear his follow-up answer so I’m not sure if he clarified his answer to say that he preferred some other alcoholic beverage entirely, but I doubt it.
Actress Nikki Blonsky waves to the crowd after singing the National Anthem before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway on June 22, 2008 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Nikki Blonsky, the young woman who played Tracy Turnblad in the 2nd movie version of Hairspray, was on hand to sing the National Anthem. I saw her as she walked up the stairs to the media center. She seemed really nice and sweet but she had on these super high, black Christian Louboutin pumps that were obviously causing her some mischief by the way she was toddling around. I know the walk caused by uncomfortable shoes, let me tell ya. Anyway, so it was funny to see her later walking around in a pair of white sneakers. Smart move Nikki.

– At the end of the day on Sunday I caught the media center shuttle van back to my parking spot. On the way there a voice came over the radio to say that Kyle Busch’s mom believed that someone from the racetrack’s staff had taken her bag. So funny! Her son wins the race and then her bag is allegedly stolen? I do hope she got her bag back, it’s a very disconcerting feeling to lose one’s purse.

– Below is a video of my view of the race. For the last 20 laps or so I watched it all go down from a landing area leading up the media center.


My Infineon Race View from Valli Hilaire on Vimeo.

crew members need to feel the love too

The No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford Fusion gets pushed through inspection at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)On Sunday before the race I walked pit road taking the usual pictures and I found the pit boxes for the No. 28 and No. 38 Yates Racing teams.

I have to say that I’ve been thinking about the guys on pit crews a lot lately, mostly because you don’t hear much about them individually or even as a group. Drivers constantly talk about how it’s a team sport and they couldn’t do it without their guys but how much do we really know about the men on these teams? And how much do they know about their fans? Unless you’re on the crew for the most popular drivers it’s hard to know who’s rooting for you or if they are at all.

On television in pre-race shows they sometimes do profiles of this crew member or that one for some special or unique story, but it’s never a consistent study of who these guys are and how they feel about their teams chances each week. I suppose it would be really hard from a PR standpoint to control all of those voices but it would be refreshing to hear them.

So with that being said I took the chance to talk to the pit crew guys — that were there — from Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland’s teams. I asked them if they ever went online to their team website to see what their fans were saying. They all said that they don’t go online and some guessed that maybe the comments were negative.

I told them that they had a bunch of fans out there that supported them 100%. So the comments from these guys surprised me and got me thinking. Since these guys don’t have time to spend online searching for what people are saying, I think that if you’re a Gilliland, Kvapil or Yates Racing fan you should send a letter to the crew members. Don’t send it to Travis or David — send it to the guys on the team. Just to be clear I’m not saying you shouldn’t write to the drivers too, you totally should, but don’t forget about the other guys that make up the team.


Crew members from the No. 28 California Highway Patrol Ford Fusion team (from left to right): Tire Runner John Horn, Catchcan Bobby Grant, and Front Tire Changer Cory DeMarco.

Crew members from the No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford Fusion team

Crew members from the No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford Fusion team

fate is a cruel mistress

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car waits to go out on to the track for practice at Infineon Raceway (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)The NASCAR experience started on Thursday. I was driving through the city I live in — Concord, California — with a friend of mine on our way to get Starbucks. There were haulers for Juan Pablo Montoya’s team at a Holiday Inn down one street and haulers for Michael Waltrip at the Crown Plaza Hotel down another. It’s really not that interesting but it gave me that extra kick of excitement about this weekend. NASCAR really was coming!

When I got to the track on Friday the temperature was in the 80s. It was definitely warm, hot even but not unbearable. That changed of course as the temps hit 107 at the end of the day when I left. Yes, I left at like 5-o-clock whilst qualifying was still going on but I have very good reasons. For one, I was literally melting, even in the shade. Second, and most important, my camera/video camera’s battery died and I didn’t have my charger with me. And third it was friggin’ hot! Since you have to wear pants in the garage area you’re totally screwed when it’s hot outside. So there I am in jeans so jealous of the fans in the paddock area behind the grandstands ’cause they’re in dresses and shorts.

Ok, so on to the good stuff. The top-12 drivers were available to the media outside of their haulers at various times before and after qualifying practice. There was only ONE driver that I wanted to see the most and that was, of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale’s media meet-up was scheduled for 2pm, the first one after the practice session. Before the practice session, I went saw Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and Kevin Harvick. While watching Clint answer questions I decided to try out my video skills. To be sure, they haven’t changed much from my experiment at the testing sessions last week (as evidenced in my earlier post). Anyway, I taped Kasey, Clint and Kevin, with various levels of pretty good sound.

It amazes me that anyone can hear anyone when those cars are grumbling in the garage. This was the first time I had ever attended one of the top-12 media press sessions before. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. The writers gather around the hauler doors before the scheduled time. It’s obvious that the majority of people know each other, which is incredibly intimidating to me since I’m the newbie. The PR reps are the gatekeepers and they’re not taking any crap from anyone. Kasey Kahne’s rep totally laid the smack down on some photographer who asked if he could get an autograph from him. It’s forbidden for media to ask the drivers for autographs, not to mention stupid. Why would you need an autograph when you’re there? I mean look at where you are!

OK, so picture it… You’re me and your computer is Clint Bowyer. That’s how close I was to him. I could have asked a question but I didn’t. For one, I had nothing prepared and two the questions I would want to ask would have nothing to do with the race this weekend.

Oh! I should say that I was given a cold garage pass. I wasn’t super worried about that, as I’ve found in the past that having a cold pass isn’t the worst thing in the world and I could still access a lot of things. So I wasn’t worried. Well not until practice began and the garage went hot. Dale Jr.’s press conference was the first one after practice ended and I was afraid they wouldn’t turn off the “hot” lights until it was too late.

And that’s exactly what happened. I wasn’t able to get back into the garage until after his session was over. I was so frustrated. I couldn’t believe it, out of all of the drivers, he’s the one I was looking forward to hearing from the most and then I couldn’t get in.

My consolation prize was seeing him walk past me as I sat on the ground outside the media center. He had just excited the men’s bathroom and quickly made his way through the fans that were looking for his signature.

One thing about the media center bathrooms, that is the place to be if you want to catch a driver. Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Jack Roush and Carl Edwards all made stops at the men’s room and really that’s the only time I have ever wished I was a guy. Haha.


Kyle Busch meets with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

This photo is kinda eerie ’cause it seems like Kyle Busch is looking right at me, as if to say “What the hell are you doing?” Frrrreeaaaky.

Kasey Kahne speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kasey Kahne speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kasey Kahne's jeans and shoes (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

I looked down and happened to notice how cool Kasey’s shoes were, so I snapped a photo. I figured the Kasey Kahne fans out there would appreciate this. :)

Kevin Harvick speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kevin Harvick speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Clint Bowyer speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Clint Bowyer speaks with the media at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

the land of low expectations

I wasn’t hearing a lot of cocky optimism from the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers on Friday at Infineon Raceway. Since they only run at two road courses each year there isn’t a lot of focus on it. They do testing and stuff but you don’t see many people working extra hard at trying to be the most amazing NASCAR road racer ever. Anyway, because so many drivers aren’t the greatest at the road thing it would have been fun (and funny) to hear someone say “Oh, yea, I got this one in the bag.”

And now for your viewing pleasure I have video that I shot of Carl Edwards chatting with the media outside his hauler on Friday. The sound isn’t the greatest and, as usual, my camera handling skills could use some work. But whatever, it is what it is.

:)


Carl Edwards at Infineon Raceway from Valli Hilaire on Vimeo.