May, 2016 By: Sandi Argo
When NASCAR, and all it’s glory, hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8th and 9th, the Jack County New Edition found themselves right smack in the middle of it! Along side the greats such as ESPN, FOX Sports, and NASCAR themselves, our local online paper found itself hitting the social media covering the event on race day, right from the infield, an experience that few, if any, from Jack County has done.
With a journey that began back in November of 2015, when I approached the TMS Media department about covering the spring races. After going through the application process I turned my attention on matters happening at the time (Christmas, New Year and then the Sheriff race). Although I had hoped they would consider us, I really did not put a whole lot of thought to it, as I knew that we were a long shot. Then one afternoon in February I received a reply! I was thrilled just to hear back from them!
The media director requested a bit more information as to what I was hoping to do if chosen for the races, what story lines would I use? I mentioned to him that, as a feature writer, I would love to write about the event itself, and any other interesting subjects I might find there. I mentioned that I was especially interested in writing about the many charities that NASCAR and TMS were involved in. (As it turns out, TMS has several charitable events throughout the year, more on that later…) He visited a bit and then said that would be in touch. Once again I went back to work, just happy to have been considered!
You can not imagine the excitement that I felt when I got the word from TMS that I had been accepted! We were going to the races!! Not as fans, but as MEDIA!! When race day finally arrived, we were ready!
On Friday, April 8th, Mallory Fowler and I gathered our things (camera, notepad, pens) and headed to the track at around 1. The race fans were already there and the excitement was in the air! When we arrived we went to the media trailer for our passes. Once we were signed in we were directed to drive to the infield for parking. Not wanting to look like an excited “rookie”, I used the time driving to the parking lot to get rid of the nerves and to do quite a bit of squealing! I know that the ultimate goal is to act and look professional…but in that 10 minutes I was like a 4 year old on Christmas morning!
The drive into the infield is really quite a scene. When we pulled in, there were cars on the track for practice. We came through a tunnel that actually goes under the track, so as we found our way to a parking spot we could see them flying by. Our first stop was at the Media Center…the hub of all the action! This is the place where the information goes before it is released to the public. Interviews are held inside, and it looks like a small scale version of the Mission Control Center at NASA! With rows of what can only be described as “shelves” that were set up for the modern day reporter…wifi, electrical outlets and plenty of coffee available, each of us had room to work. The room had a stage set up, with 2 microphones and chairs, at the front of the room for press conferences. It was definitely the focal point of the room. TV screens hang above the work area, allowing full view of the race (or the Masters golf tournament on one screen). No DIY shows or Dancing with the Stars in that room! It’s all about the muscle, baby!
Mallory and I made our way down toward Victory Lane. One of the stories we covered was about the company that does the engraving for TMS. I met the owner of AAI Trophies and Awards (Plano, Tx) while at the luncheon the previous week. Such a cool guy with a neat story. I wanted to get pics of them in action and Mr. Karnuth was great about getting us where we needed to be to do so. His crew was AWESOME, and treated us like old friends.
We walked around, talking to fans. I wanted to find out where they were from, what driver they followed and just any interesting detail they wanted to mention. NASCAR fans are a breed of our own, and we will defend our guy (or Danicka) to the bitter end! Since MY driver retired at the end of 2015 (you NASCAR folks won’t even have to wonder who…Jeff Gordon…) I have been a bit lost. I had many people offer suggestions as to who I needed to follow!
One of the first fans we met were sisters, one from Rowlett and the other from Greenville (Texas). These ladies were wonderful fans! One was a Jr. fan, the other was a Smoke fan. Sadly, Tony “Smoke” Stewart is not even able to race due to an off season injury to his back. This being his last year (having announced his retirement will be the end of this season) his fans are hoping he will be able to race soon. We NASCAR fans don’t care if they are racing golf carts…we just want to see our guy drive! The sisters come by their love of fuel and tires honestly, their mother (in her 80’s) is a fan of my guy. Lucky to have been at the race in Homestead (Homestead-Miami Speedway) her luck was even greater when she was chosen to meet the now-retired Jeff Gordon after the race. When asked what driver she would be pulling for now, the answer (like so many others) was… no idea. Many Gordon fans are still at a loss for who to cheer on, but you can bet we will find someone worthy of our devotion. It’s NASCAR and we are fans.
During the afternoon, we met and chatted with a number of people from as far away as Kansas that had traveled to see the Xfinity race. Another fan favorite, Carl Edwards (the #19) had finished the Sprint Cup qualifying with the pole. Mallory and I stood at Victory Lane during the celebration and ceremony, a very exciting place to be.
Feeling hungry, Mallory and I went searching for food. While we rested at an outdoor table, we noticed a group of guys standing at a small bar table. The group had 2 guys, facing off in an arm wrestling match. The others standing there were ready, with cameras and phones ready to capture the obvious moment of history in the making.. The man that won, won easily. He was dressed like he was SOMEONE, but we never found out who. He had great arms though, thats for sure. After enjoying a couple of tacos from fan favorite, Fuzzy’s Tacos, we headed to pit road to watch the Pre Race festivities and the start of the race. If you’ve never been to TMS, you might not realize the degree of banking (slope) the drivers contend with. A 24° bank may not sound like a lot but standing right next to the track at turn 4 looks very daunting to the average Joe. Once the cars get wound tight and flying off the turn it makes the ground shake! Looking around at the faces of those who were still down behind the pit boxes was pure entertainment. Watching the pit crews do their jobs was even better! Seeing it on TV and being right there are 2 different things! After about 32 laps I was trying to find out when the cars would be expected to pit. To my surprise, I was taken to the pit stall of one of the drivers as someone tried to find out for me. It was pretty cool!
At the end of the race, won by Kyle Bush, Mallory and I hoofed it to Victory Lane. The crowd celebrated with Bush, regardless of who’s numbers they might have had on their shirts. That’s just how NASCAR fans are. Yes, we adore our drivers but we LOVE the sport As the fireworks lit up the night sky, a perfect day came to a perfect close and the crowd left with content smiles on their faces, ready for the next race to start!
Gallery (click on image to enlarge)