The NASCAR Experience: Part 1

I used to be one of those haters who thought NASCAR was easy. That it was all about driving in circles really fast. A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the mechanics behind it all. The cars are works of art and a product of intense science. Each piece of the puzzle (driver, pit crew, spotter, etc.) are pivotal to success. Speeding around tight turns at upwards of 150 mph, calculating just how many laps a car can go at high speed on an amount of gas, and changing a set of tires in a matter of seconds – and it all still comes down to a matter of a fraction of a second. So over time I have become a fan. I love the family values emphasized in the culture, the patriotism, the excitement.

Mrs. International 2011, Janet Bolin, caught wind of my “fandom” and coordinated an opportunity for me to attend and enjoy the POCONO 400! She didn’t just get me tickets… she arranged for pit passes, pace car rides, and access to Victory Lane…. I mean come ON, it was set up to be the best day EVER! Oh, ladies… Did I mention that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill were set to be the Grand Marshalls that day to promote their new movie “22 Jump Street”?

We arrived so bright and early on Sunday morning and after finally navigating the little town of Long Pond, PA we stopped to pick up our credentials. Seeing the time and knowing my pace car ride was at 7:40am I was getting nervous, I COULDN’T miss it. The sweet gentleman at the counter asked in a southern accent, “How are you doing today?”. I smiled back and said “I’m so excited! But, I have a pace car ride scheduled at 7:40 and I’m afraid I’m going to miss it!”…. Without skipping a beat he grabbed a little green sticker next to me (which happened to be premier parking) and after explaining the fastest way to get to the track he said – imagine the southern accent – “you gon’ make it!” (The kicker of this little story is I wasn’t even wearing my crown and sash yet – talk about hospitality!)

I think everyone should ride in a pace car once in their life. WOW! I am not a fan of even speeding really so I was worried. John, our driver, was super calm and confident so I had faith in him. Until, we rounded the corner SO close to the wall I could’ve touched it! I asked him how fast we were going – no big deal, a mere 100 – 120 mph!!!!!!!! I nervous chatted with John pretty much the entire rest of the drive. You could feel the air going through you, even from INSIDE the car. What a thrill!

We spent the rest of the morning wandering through pit road, checking out the pit boxes, all their millions of parts and pieces. Fun fact – If you wonder how they can replace a tire so quickly, they pre-glue lug nuts in place so they just have to be tightened when the time comes. However, since the glue has to be the perfect level of gummy and crystallized by the time they are needed, they have to be glued at the perfect time or else they won’t stick and that would be a disaster.

Each team and vendor brings a “hauler” – what I would call a tricked out bus/trailer combo. We got a peek at the Ingersoll Rand hauler which proudly displays many of the tools used in the garage and on pit road. They even have sparkly scooter that is powered by their drill motors. Talk about high power! It zooms around that little hauler like nobody’s business. (I tried for a second and ran it into my ankle - I figured being able to walk the rest of the day was more important than trying to master the scooter)

We have arrived! With our pace car driver, John McMullin – He even let me wear my crown for the ride.

Hanging out in the garage area – Danica Patrick’s car seen in the background

With some of our servicemen who were preparing to take part in the presentation of colors!

With Mr. Haas of Haas Racing in the Ingersoll Rand Hauler (pictured is the famed scooter)

Crew member gluing on lug nuts

Visiting with some young fans

Will I get to meet my favorite driver Denny Hamlin??? And Also, Channing Tatum??? You will have to check in to my next blog to find out!



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