All posts tagged Las Vegas Motor Speedway

8 Posts

inside the driver/crew chief meeting

My race view of the Shelby 527 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 1, 2009 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was unlike any other Sprint Cup race day I’d experienced before. Why? Because I got to attend the drivers meeting.

Shut up! I know! Yea, I was kind of psyched about the whole thing. Standing in the back of the room with various media and PR people it was definitely a moment where I said to myself “Am I really standing here right now? This is happening? Yes, it is.” At the same time though the whole reality of situation revealed itself and it turned out to be really boring.
:)

It went by in a flash, and while I did see a lot of drivers it was pretty mundane. Maybe I’m getting used to seeing drivers walking around in regular clothes, and being in the same room as them? I know, I can’t believe I just wrote that either. I think there’s something to that though. The meeting itself consisted of a PowerPoint presentation that takes the drivers and their crew chiefs through the specified pit road speed for the day, the entrances and exits for pit road and various rules and regulations.

I found it funny that there were typos in said presentation and that if someone didn’t remember turn off their cell phone they were ushered out of the room as if they’d just tried to throw their shoe at the President.

The meeting ends with a prayer and then everyone is on their way. It was a cool thing to experience and I will no longer have to wonder what the atmosphere is like in those meetings.

After the drivers meeting I headed straight into the lunch room for uh, lunch, and sat at a table with Travis, a member of the Nellis Air Force base honor guard. Travis volunteered to attend the event and present the American flag before the start of the race. We chatted for a little bit before he had to run to get ready. Our conversation consisted of me explaining why NASCAR was indeed a sport. I found it hilarious that I had to defend NASCAR while at a NASCAR race. Classic.
:)

Let’s skip ahead to after driver introductions and imagine me walking from the general area of the stage set-up on the start/finish line over to the race cars parked on the edge of the grass in front of the grandstands.

If you’re by yourself and have no affiliation to a race team it is incredibly nerve wracking to walk around and try to just “blend in” with the crowd, when everybody is just standing around looking at everybody else. I always feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, but I want to stand out there with everybody else ’cause a.) I can and b.) because I can. If you have that access of course you’re going to use it and I’m one of those people who like to extinguish all available options. It’s so cool to be there, but at the same time I feel like people are looking at me wondering why I’m standing next to their car in particular. I dunno. It’s the weirdest thing and it’s hard to explain.

So after what was the coolest fly over ever, I headed to pit road to get a spot to watch the race start. I ended up behind Kurt Busch’s pit box where I saw his wife Eva and her insanely large wedding ring. I want to give you a more realistic example of how large the diamond on her hand was, instead of just saying “It’s a rock alright!” So I’ll say that it looked to be the same size as a peanut M&M.

I watched the vast majority of the race from the media center and then with about 20-30 laps left to go I decided to leave. Yea, I just couldn’t stomach the idea of having to stay at the track until 8pm in order to have the possibility of missing traffic. I couldn’t take it. So I left, missing all traffic and went to Panda Express.

On my way back to my hotel, whilst on I-15, I could see the helicopters from the track making their way to McCarran Airport. It was fun to see them all in a row, it looked like a constellation.

Monday morning I was in the lobby of South Point Hotel & Casino waiting to check-out, and I noticed that Fox Sports NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds was in front of me doing the same.

All in all it was a great weekend; I learned a lot and met some great people. It seems crazy to say that I’m going to highly enjoy watching this weekend’s race at Atlanta from the comfort of my own couch, but I really, really will. At this point in time my next in-person race will probably be Infineon in June. That gives me plenty of time to recover from two-straight weekends of NASCAR craziness.


Reed Sorenson and Casey Mears make their way to the stage for driver introductions before the start of the Shelby 527 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 1, 2009 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

This photo ranks right up there with my shot of Clint Bowyer at Chicagoland from last year. :)

Reed Sorenson and Casey Mears make their way to the stage for driver introductions before the start of the Shelby 527 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 1, 2009 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Cars and drivers line up before the start of the Shelby 527 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 1, 2009 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Can you spot Sam Hornish Jr. and his baby daughter, Addison, in this photo?

Cars and drivers line up before the start of the Shelby 527 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 1, 2009 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Flying Elvi (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Members of the Flying Elvi skydiving team touched down before the start of the Shelby 527 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 1, 2009 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

it’s true, having fun can be tiring

I think I’ve twittered about being tired a lot in the very recent past. I’m sure people are wondering why I’ve been so tired considering the fact that all I’ve been doing is going to work as usual and attending NASCAR races in between.

Going to a NASCAR race is not like going to the movies or playing mini golf. It’s an all day thing and it involves a lot of walking, standing, and more walking. Plus I tend to get to the track early because I’m paranoid about missing out on something. Take Friday (qualifying day) for example, I got up at like 7am, to get to the track by 8. I was there until 6 and then I had to sit in ridiculous traffic for another hour and a half. I got back to Starbucks (my home away from home) at like 7:30pm.

So I’m still catching up on regular sleep and my normal schedule. It’s weird. I have a bunch of stuff to talk about so let me start with Saturday.

I walked the Sprint Cup garage to find the best place to stand to take photos of the cars as they exited the track during both practice sessions. I found the best spot across from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hauler. Cars passed by right in front of me, so close that it seemed like they were going run right over my toes. It was perfect.

Now I know that the type of race fans that read blogs like this one aren’t the fans that need to know the tiny piece of information I’m about to share with you. It’s really the casual fans that come to like one race a year that need to heed the advice I am giving. Look around you!!! I cannot tell you how many people I saw just walking around, lolly gagging, in a “hot” garage. Cars are constantly coming in and out, and these people have no idea where they’re walking.

To illustrate my point perfectly there was a woman who walked right in front of Michael Waltrip and his #55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota as he entered the garage. She was so freaked out that she tried to run out of the way but her fright got the best of her and she fell right in front of his car. Michael stopped of course, not close to her at all, and the security guy that had been directing traffic helped her out of the way. I know she was embarrassed. I felt bad for her but at the same time it was pretty comical.

In other news…

lasvegas_saturday_spa– Las Vegas Motor Speedway has a spa. Yes, my friends, a spa. It’s not for you and me, it’s for the drivers and their families. While the guys are out on the track their wives can relax and get manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. So you’re telling me that these people get to bypass the insane traffic in their helicopters and then once they’re here they get to have a mani/pedi too?! So not fair. :)


Bobby Labonte helps to push his car back to the garage during Sprint Cup Series practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, February 28, 2009. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Bobby Labonte helps to push his car back to the garage during Sprint Cup Series practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, February 28, 2009. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Elliott Sadler navigates his way through the garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, February 28, 2009. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Elliott Sadler navigates his way through the garage during Sprint Cup Series practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, February 28, 2009. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

lasvegas_saturday_mtruexjr

Martin Truex Jr. navigates his way through the garage during Sprint Cup Series practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, February 28, 2009. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

making serious eye contact with biffle

The No. 99 team run to Victory Lane at the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)So as the race wound down I made sure I was in the lobby of the Media Center to catch Carl Edwards’ flip into the grass as it happened. As soon as he sped his car into the garage the entire No. 99 Office Depot team came running through the lobby on their way to celebrate their win in Victory Lane. My blurry photo of some of the guys is to the left.

I must confess that yet again I was hoping and wishing that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would make it into the top 3 because at the end of every race they always have the top finishers come into the Media Center to answer questions. As soon as I saw Carl jump off of his car in Victory Lane I hightailed into the deadline media room and waited for Dale and Greg Biffle to arrive. Biffle came in first and looked dead at me like I was an alien. I don’t think he meant anything weird by it; I was standing right next to the door he came through and he was already answering questions from a couple writers so he was in mid-sentence and they just stopped right there by the door. Yea it was awkward. So I moved away and stood next to an empty workspace, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible from that point onward.

Eventually Biffle took a seat on the stage and Dale Jr. zipped in and took his designated spot next to him (after the questions were over he zipped right out, he’s not much of a lingerer that Dale Jr.). There were more questions directed to Dale than Biffle. Dale was funny and I knew they wouldn’t use his best responses on the local newscasts later that night. He called himself a tool for not being more aggressive when it came to restarts and when one writer questioned his status of emotions after coming in second, saying that he thought Dale seemed “subdued” in his demeanor, Dale replied, “I don’t know, I’m happy.  I’m sorry I’m not happier.”

The best part came when they were both asked about how much they think about the points standings and making sure they’re in the top 12. Dale admitted that last year he was “lackadaisical” about the Championship standings, saying that he’d say “We’ll get around to it, we’ll put some runs together to get in there,” but not so this year. This time he’s focusing on every lap. And frankly as one of his fans, that’s music to my ears.


Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. answer questions from the media after the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 2, 2008 (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. answer questions from the media after the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 2, 2008

a moment like this

I didn’t really want to use a Kelly Clarkson song for the title of this post but it’s all I could come up with, I’m tired, give me a break.

After driver intros everybody went to their cars to wait for the invocation and the national anthem. I took a second to look up at the crowd in the grandstands. It was so surreal to be there. I mean this is NASCAR. This is right before the start of the race and I’m standing just like feet away from cars that are going to be racing in a few minutes. This is it. How the hell did I get here?

I don’t think I’ll ever get over that feeling of wonder. I’m sure if you’re always at the races or work in some capacity for NASCAR it gets old in some ways, but I just can’t imagine losing that feeling of awe. Looking back on it now I can’t believe I was there at all. Although there was one totally big reality-check moment when, after the anthem was over, I started to walk towards the pits through a painted area of the grass and a track official quickly yelled for me to walk around it.

She was totally nice about it but it was then that I knew that yes, this is really me on the track at a NASCAR race messing up the pretty logo painted on the grass.

Good times, good times. :)


Pit crews line up for the singing of the national anthem at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

Pit crews line up for the singing of the national anthem at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 2, 2008.

don’t stand so close to me (unless you’re clint bowyer)

So I have this new vow that whenever I get media credentials I’m going to make the most of them. I’m going to do everything and access everything that my credentials will allow, at least, all of the stuff that I know about. There were three symbols whose meaning I never got around to figuring out. So anyway, back to making the most of things. I knew I wanted to get to the drivers introduction stage but it was way out on the start/finish line and not on pit road like it had been at California. So I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to be out there. Plus I didn’t see any of the media people that I recognized out there, but as I like to say “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” So I went out there and one of the security people let me through. 

Before the start of driver introductions there were a bunch of small introductory speeches by various big wigs, the Mayor of Las Vegas Oscar Goodman, SMI Chairman of the Board Bruton Smith, etc. And then the Blue Man Group put on a little show. They were really cool to see in person, even if I only saw the right side of the stage. I thought it was fun having them perform. Musical/theatrical shows are such a Vegas thing and it’s only fitting to have one before the start of the race, plus it’s like you get a little extra for all the money you shelled out for the tickets.

While the blue dudes were performing Clint Bowyer walked out on to the grass with a bunch of guys I’m assuming were his friends. He stopped to check out the show like right next to where I was standing. It was the most awkward thing. Should I stand there and look at the show like “yea I think the show is really cool too Clint” or should I stare at him and snap as many photos as possible right in his face? Well I chose a sort of combination of the two. I took photos of him, and stared at him and also tried to move out of his way so that he could get a better look at the show, all the while trying to be nonchalant about the whole thing.

And so eventually all of the drivers streamed out onto the grass behind the stage. Dale Earnhardt Jr. sped by in his requisite black hoodie and into the tented backstage area. Meanwhile a woman standing next to me with a very large chest area had Robby Gordon sign her boobs, I mean, shirt.


Robby Gordon gives his autograph (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

Robby Gordon signs a fan’s boob shirt at the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas.

Clint Bowyer watches The Blue Man Group perform before the start of the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

Clint Bowyer watches The Blue Man Group perform before the start of the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas.

Clint Bowyer watches The Blue Man Group perform before the start of the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

Clint Bowyer watches The Blue Man Group perform before the start of the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas.

The Blue Man Group perform before the start of the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

The Blue Man Group perform before the start of the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas.

J.J. Yeley and his adorable daughter Faith exit the stage during driver introductions at the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

J.J. Yeley and his adorable daughter Faith exit the stage during driver introductions at the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas.

A group of drivers hang out before they are introduced at the UAW-Dodge 400 in Las Vegas

Kyle Petty, Ken Schrader, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Reutimann (sitting) hang out before they’re introduced at driver introductions.

not everyone can get carrot top

Prop Comic Carrot Top (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)For all of the Auto Club Speedway’s attempts at making itself Hollywood east it didn’t really come through at their race last week. Ok, so they had Tom Cruise, but that’s one dude and people don’t like him anymore since he jumped on Oprah’s couch. Las Vegas Motor Speedway had Carrot Top! You read that right, the one and only Carrot Top was on hand for the UAW-Dodge 400. He just sort of popped up at driver introductions. I was disappointed he was wearing a jacket. I wanted to see his scarily bulging biceps.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach was there to announce the drivers. I caught a glimpse of country singer Blake Shelton leaving the drivers meeting before the race. He is so freaking gorgeous. JC Chasez of N’SYNC fame also made an appearance at the race. He hung out with the drivers before introductions and then at Kurt Busch’s car during the national anthem.


JC Chasez at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

JC Chasez of N’SYNC waits to have his photo taken at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 2, 2008. (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

first things first, the neon garage

The Little Las Vegas Sign (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)I got back from Las Vegas yesterday and I’m still tired. I’m going to break up my recap of Sunday into separate posts, along with photos ‘cause there’s kind of a lot to talk about.

To start, I gotta talk about the Neon Garage.

The Neon Garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a playground for adults. At least that’s what it looks like to me. There’s a big bar, food and a concert stage right smack dab in the middle of the garage. The thing I loved about it the most is how much of the team garages you can actually see. You could even go one step further and say that you really don’t even need to get a garage pass. There are windows into each of the team’s stalls, from the top and the bottom so that fans can see in from almost every angle. The teams have no privacy when they’re working on their cars. If someone’s butt crack is showing or they’re picking their nose everybody is going to see it.

Some other pluses for the fans are the fact that the place is super clean and just incredibly open. Oh and about that concert stage. I saw the impersonators for Elvis and Stevie Wonder. And really it’s not a trip to Vegas without a performance from Elvis right? In addition to Stevie and Elvis there was a complete line-up of celebrity impersonators and then a bunch of cover bands — no race weekend is complete without a cover of “Life is a Highway.”


Through the looking glass -- the No. 48 Lowes team work on their car (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

Through the looking glass -- the No. 5 Kelloggs team work on their car (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

The Neon Garage (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

The Neon Garage (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

The Neon Garage (Photo Credit: The Fast and the Fabulous/Valli Hilaire)

my weekend, so far, in vegas

After a road trip that consisted of over 500 miles, one prison, and 50 Lance Burton billboards, I made it to Las Vegas on Friday.

I checked in to the hotel I went straight to the track to pick up my credentials. Traffic was crap.

Here’s the thing you should know about me. I’m a rule follower. I don’t like to break rules. It bothers me when others break rules. If we all say we’re going to do it one way I don’t like it when people disregard all of that and do whatever they want. So with that being said, I thought I was prepared.  Well as much as I could be given the fact that when you’re given credentials nobody tells you anything about where anything is. It’s all up to you to figure it out. Of course you can ask (and I have), but I don’t understand why they don’t have some sheet that just outlines basic stuff, like here’s how you get to the media center, here’s what those symbols on your credentials mean and what they give you access to, here’s why you’re not getting a parking pass, etc.

So back to Friday, My first mistake was getting off at the exit for general parking, there was another exit designated for people picking up credentials but I didn’t find that out until yesterday when I was on my way to the track again.

After exiting the freeway, I went in the direction that should have taken me to another road where I should have been able to turn left. Mm, no. All of the cops in the world were out in force and were diverting traffic to the right. So I went right. But I still needed to get to the credential office before it closed. So because my hands were tied, I did what the other people who were pissed that they couldn’t go left like they needed to did, I made what I’m sure was an illegal u-turn and headed back up the road. I crossed in front of oncoming traffic to turn into the credentials gate, no help from the cops there.

After I got my credentials I decided to just go back to the hotel. There was no way I was going to figure out how to get into the track at that point. Besides, I was tired and qualifying was over.

The navigation system in my car said that it should take 25 minutes to get back to the hotel. It actually took an hour. Traffic in general on the city streets was slow and then once you were on the highway there were two accidents to contend with.

So that was Friday. Saturday I made sure I got up early to be at the track as soon as the gates opened so I could get a good parking spot. Here’s the problem with that plan. There’s like thousands of other NASCAR fans who had the exact same plan. My spot ended up not being that bad but it was still a bit of a walk to get to the track entrance.

This was my first time to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I was in awe of the Media Center. In the first floor lobby there’s this big wall of glass looking out at the start/finish line and pit row. I think I might have actually said “whoa” out loud.

It’s a beautiful, pristine building. But you know there’s a gripe coming right? The Media Center has three floors. The first has a lounge, a big meeting room (for drivers meetings and the like) and direct access to pit road. The second floor is where the deadline media have their view of the start/finish line and it’s where all of the PR materials, schedules & stat sheets live. The third floor, complete with roof access is where the VIP suites are situated. I’m not deadline media so that means I can sit in one of the workrooms and watch the race on a TV. I just think there’s something off about that. I’m here at the race with all this access and yet I still have to watch the race on a TV? Why not let me have access to the roof with the high rollers? I’ll promise to not eat anything from their platters of food.

I have no idea where I’ll be watching the race from today, but I can guarantee you it won’t be solely from a TV.  The more I think about that the more it irks me. Ugh. Anyway…

Below are photos from Friday and Saturday. I’m posting my photos tomorrow as I forgot to bring my USB cord with me today. Lame.


Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Kasey Kahne retreats to his hauler after he was one of six Dodge drivers to find the wall during Friday’s practice for the UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Indy Racing League Indy Car Series champions Jimmie Johnson and Dario Franchitti chat while looking for shade from the hot Las Vegas sun during qualifying for the UAW-Dodge 400. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Tony Stewart motions to his crew what he’s experiencing on the track during practice for the UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Kasey Kahne was fastest in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice on Saturday for Sunday’s UAW-Dodge 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Doing the double this weekend, Greg Biffle qualified his NASCAR Nationwide Series car and then hopped in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride for two practices before racing his Nationwide car on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

Mark Martin (No. 5) slides by after making contact with Carl Edwards (No. 60) who collided with Brad Keselowski (No. 88) late in the Sam Town’s 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrates the first win for JR Motorsports with Mark Martin taking the No. 5 to victory lane. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images)