After my first experience at Kansas Speedway last year, I really thought it was going to be hard to top it. Boy, was I wrong. This time around, so many unexpected things happened that I am still not quite sure that it wasn't all an elusive dream.
Not even a year ago, I tried my hand at writing about the sport I love. Since that very first article (which you can read here), my life has changed so much. Now, I am not only the leading editor for the site where I got my start, but I also write for four others, making it a total of five racing websites. That's not counting my own blog and website series! From multiple Huffington Post Live appearances and online radio interviews, I can't believe how much my life has changed in the last year. Trust me, this all ties in to the story!
Anyway, back to Kansas! Going in to the race weekend, I knew I had a press pass thanks to one of the fabulous sites I write for, Speedway Digest. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect with a media pass but I was eager to find out! I spread my wings a little and set up a one-on-one interview with Nationwide Series driver Johanna Long. With this being my first interview with someone within the industry, I was slightly nervous for what was in store.
Friday at noon, I walked up to the No.70 hauler and met her PR rep Cameron. We chatted for a few minutes as we waited for Long to finish up with a phone call. When she came out from the front of the hauler, it was go time! We are close in age, which made the conversation really comfortable and light. She was extremely sweet and I can't wait to talk to her again in the future.
Check out my interview here!
Beyond my interview with Johanna Long, I had nothing else planned for the weekend. I was just going to soak up the atmosphere of being at the race track. What I didn't realize is there were many adventures that were just waiting for me.
At each racetrack, there is a building that is home to the driver press conferences and usually has a designated area for the members of the media to plug in and write/record/produce/do their thing. I was right in the middle of it all. Surrounded by writer that I have admired since starting my own writing adventures was extremely inspiring. Here I was, a college junior with little professional writing experience, rubbing elbows with the likes of Bob Pockrass, Nate Ryan, Claire B. Lang and many more!
Friday was full of all things media. I camped out in the media center for most of the afternoon just taking in the atmosphere. I attended a few press conferences after qualifying but never got up the nerve to ask any questions. My partner in crime from Speedway Digest though, did end up asking some questions during press conferences later in the weekend!
With the ARCA Championship race Friday night under the lights, it was a great way to wrap up my first day as an official member of the media. Saturday morning, I was chomping at the bit to get back to the track. I had nothing planned for the day but I was going to make the most of it. Little did I know what Saturday had in store.
Back at the track, I dropped my stuff off in the media center, grabbed some breakfast (they were never short on good food and drinks...for free), and headed into the garage. Seeing the cars and the teams up close is incredible. Not many sports allow fans to basically touch the players and equipment like NASCAR fans get to.
During my time in the garage and at the track, there were a few instances where people would come up to me and ask me if I was well...me! NASCAR fans were recognizing me from my work and wanted to meet me! Knowing that I had written something that had caught someone's attention was unbelievable.
Also on Saturday, I was able to meet with many of the people on Danica Patrick's crew. Her spotter, Brandon, was one of the first I met. Following her from her Nationwide Series crew, Brandon has been with Patrick for a few years and after talking with him, it was very easy to see that he has nothing but respect for his driver.
Later that afternoon, I was finally able to meet up with Beth Gibson. One of the sweetest people I met all weekend, she gave me a tour of the GoDaddy hauler and a let me get a close look at the Pink GoDaddy No.10. It was really interesting to see Patrick's crew working on the car up close; those guys never stop!
Back in the hauler, Beth introduced me to her husband Tony, Patrick's Crew Chief and also, Danica herself! Although I had met Danica the season prior, it's easy to forget just how tiny she really is! Everyone on the GoDaddy crew was exceptionally nice, especially to a media chick from Nebraska! Definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.
The Nationwide race was an adventure in itself! The biggest excitement when Kyle Busch got into the back of Brad Keselowski and caused him to spin out and wreck. Keselowski, rightfully ticked, climbed out of his car in Turn 1 and proceeded to run across the infield grass, down pit road, behind pit wall, down to turn 4, and all the way to the infield care center. He basically sprinted a mile in total. Pretty impressive!
Sunday, I was a little bummed. It was my last day at the track and I wasn't ready to leave. I only had one event planned that morning and after I was able to meet some more great people before heading to the grandstands. Meeting up with one of my editors from another site, Popular Speed, we went to meet the creator of the website, Mike Calinoff (he is the spotter for Ricky Stenhouse Jr)!
My first adventure that morning was taking a pace car ride around the track! The pace car was driven by legendary driver Brett Bodine and after he got the car up to around 115mph, I have a new respect for those who go 180mph+ every weekend. The G-force is INSANE!
The Sprint Cup Series race was definitely an eventful one. Unfortunately, Danica Patrick wrecked out very early in the race and sadly, she wasn't the only one. When the checkered flag finally flew, there had been 15 total caution flags during the 400 mile race. One caution flag was for a fire, in the bushes by the stands. The smoke was so thick that it was hard to see through!
At the end of the weekend, I had one of the most memorable weekends of my life. I met so many amazing people beyond those named above including Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, PressDog, Stan Creekmore and many others! My time at the track made me realize that there is no where else that I would rather be. I can't wait to finally call the race track, and North Carolina, my home.