Road Racing

Yet another Sunday full of panic and drama. I have this dream that one day I will make it through race day travel without a panic attack. Not yet. Maybe someday.

I think the majority of it starts with a 3:00am alarm. Man that’s rough. It’s hard to sleep the night before. Just about the time I go to sleep, the alarm goes off.

No real issues until we got to Watkins Glen. There was fog around the airport and apparently you can’t land a big plane at a small airport with zero visibility. I would think that you could with the right computer, but maybe not.

So, we circled the area for about 2 hours. The fog was lifting so the pilots decided to try and land the plane, emphasis on try. They pulled up at the last minute. First time for me to be on a plane that had to abort a landing. So not fun. Did I mention I don’t like to fly very much? Take offs and landings make me really nervous. Especially since these planes are really big and the airports are really small, not exactly designed to be landing a big plane there.

So we came around for another try a few minutes later. Thankfully, we made it on the ground safe and sound.

But, as I mentioned, we had circled for over 2 hours. That made us over 2 hours late. When we got off of the plane and out the gate the rental car lady was there, but there was no car with my name on it. Second time in two weeks that has happened. No sleep, already running late equals zero patience. Another 30 minute delay looking for the car.

Of course this has to happen on the day that I am supposed to start calling all of our guests to make sure that they made it to the track ok. And at a race track that I had never been to and new nothing about.

Fun Times

Watkins Glen is a road course race track that is out in the middle of nowhere New York. It’s a 30 min drive from the airport on back country roads with lots of steep hills. It probably would have been a nice scenic drive had I have had the chance to breathe. I’ve heard its a really pretty place with amazing water falls. I still don’t know that first hand though.

When I finally got to the track, which I couldn’t see, I followed the signs to the infield and asked several people where to go. Unfortunately, I followed the wrong signs and got lost in the campground. Just what I needed. I did manage to make it to the infield and after asking several more people found the right parking lot.

This whole process was very frustrating for me. All of the race tracks that I have ever been to are visible from the road. It’s pretty clear where the infield is and usually pretty easy to find the right parking lot. Not this one! Shame on me for not being more prepared.

Had to talk to several more people in order to find the Cup garage and the media center as well.

It’s a road course. It’s all screwed up.

I finally made it to the media center and had a chance to catch my breath. There was a lot going on in there so I didn’t hang out for too long. I made my way to the garage to catch up with our driver’s PR manager. He showed me where pit road was and where the pit box was. At this road course the drivers go around the track counter clockwise, so everything is backwards from normal. You would think that would be easy to remember, but its not. It’s really confusing.

About half of our guests showed up, which is normal. They met with the driver and I gave them the speech about walking to pit road for the opening ceremonies. About an hour later only half of the half showed up. I have no idea why people come to the track and don’t want to walk out to pit road before the race and sit on the pit box to watch the race. It really baffles me, seriously. I would have killed for an opportunity like that, regardless of the driver!

It’s such an awesome experience to walk down pit road like you own the place! To stand next to the cars and watch all of the pre-race excitement… I just can’t put it into words. I don’t know why anyone would miss that.

A bit earlier in the day the PR manager that I was hanging out with got tapped to spot for the driver on the back part of the course. So, he asked me to do his job for the day. That meant once the opening ceremonies were finished I sent the guests down to the pit box and stayed at the car while the driver got in the car. I got to be the official hat and sunglasses holder for the day! lol

I also got to take pit notes, which is basically writing down everything that happens in the race that pertains to our car and what the driver and crew chief talk about during the race. Very cool.

Once I made it down to the pit box and the race started, within 10 laps all of the guests left. So, I went to the media center. There is air conditioning in there and I’m not in the way in there. Plus they have TVs so you can see what’s going on. I opted to take my pit notes on the computer. It’s way easier.

About 2/3 through the race there was a big wreck that cause damage to the barriers. They had to be repaired before the race could continue. So, as was the duty of “official hat holder”, I made my way back to pit road to wait for the driver. They parked the cars on the front stretch and the drivers got out.

It took more than an hour to repair the barriers. The drivers hung out behind the pit box and ate popsicles. They talked to the crew guys for a while and talked to each other. Finally they got back in the cars and got the race started again.

It took a bunch of cautions and another red flag to finish the race.

Me, being so prepared and all, went a different way out of the track. I was trusting my sweet iPhone to get me to the airport, but I didn’t have very much confidence in the way I was going. More country roads, lots of houses, no gas stations or restaurants in sight. Not cool for someone who needs to put gas in their rental car before I got back to the airport.

I drove around for 30 mins after I found the airport looking for a gas station. After a couple of wild goose chases from highway signs, I finally found one. One that didn’t take credit cards. Thankfully, for once in my life I had cash.

When I got back to the airport I realized that had I went the other way on the highway I would have found civilization. Even more frustrating that driving around for 30 mins!

Finally made it to the plane though and surprisingly enough ours was the earlier of the two to leave. We made it home by 9:30pm, though the landing was a lot rougher than usual. That was about the fifth time I was positive that I was going to die that day.

On the plane ride home this guy sat down next to me and started talking to me. I’m sure I was looking at him like he had lost his mind. That never happens. Lots of people stare at me, but no one ever says anything. Not sure what he was up to. Maybe he was just chatty or maybe he had other intentions. I don’t know. But the ring on his left hand kept me from saying too much. So not going there.

All in all I survived another race day. I visited another state and another race track that I had not seen before.

Back to Michigan next weekend.

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