Woot! Sunday, SUNDAY, Sunday…Race day and everyone was ready to see the best drivers in the world strut their stuff but first the North Turn Crew had some NASCAR 101 classes with me in the Fanzone.
We headed in to Daytona’s infield and their spiffy area for fans to see in the garages through windows in each garage stall and from on top the garages for a birds eye view of the drivers, crews and the rest of the motley fools wandering around in the Cup garage.
The NTC started out at Kurt’s window – mostly because it was close and open! – and got a long lecture introducing them to the crew guys and their jobs, the car and what they were doing to prep the car for inspection and the race. By the time I turned around and finished talking the 7 of us had turned into about 30 people! I really have to try to get paid for this someday…LOL
We then headed up top of the garages hoping to catch some drivers but we were on the wrong side for the drivers meeting. We still spotted a few as well as some owners and learned all about the inspection stations. We did manage to spot our ole buddy Luke, who is now the shock specialist on the #56 team. As is custom for women on the garage roof I just had to yell out to him that I wanted to have his baby – I cannot tell you how many times I heard women yelling this to drivers over the week, that and “you suck XXX” – Luke laughed and I am pretty sure gestured for me to kiss his arse…!
After getting the NTC some free water from the hauler (Ellie saved her bottle even – now that is a rabid fan!) we hoped to get a tour of the brand spanking new, million dollar #22 pit box. Problem was the Fanzone pass didn’t allow you on pit road. To continue the magic of the weekend for the NTC, Kurt’s pit just happened to be the one right next to the cut through the fans took to get to the infield grass and the concerts. So I told them to follow me like they belonged there and I’d get them in and sure enough we did it!
Our new pit box is pretty swank including stadium seating for all the guests of the race team and even nicer flat screen TV’s and computers along with satellite dish and high end electronics. The guys used to have the old pit box up in about a half an hour and this one took about 3 hours the first couple times to put it up and they had to help the #2 crew with theirs! NASCAR is getting pretty high tech…
After the tour of the pit box the NTC headed out to the infield where we came upon Cupcake’s winning car from last year. Gotta love year old champagne and confetti!
We headed over to the track itself and signed the start finish line – I am surprised the white checks could even be seen with all the sharpie signatures all over it. Afterward we headed over to where I assumed the drivers would be coming out – the stage – to wait for driver intros as we jammed to Brad Paisley. Of course, the drivers did NOT come across the stage which I thought was ridiculous! Why even have it up then? We could barely see them through the throng on the grass as they walked down the walkway to the cars. The only major disappointment we encountered. My NTC headed up to our grandstand seats and I decided (with their insistence) that I just couldn’t pass up watching the race from the pits, especially given how well Kurt had been running. Could you imagine me stuck in the stands watching that finish? I would have died if he had won…
The green flag dropped, Kurt grabbed the lead and kept it until the famed silent #3 lap. Here is a shot from my view, none of the crews participated that I could see but it was an impressive sight to look up at the grandstands to see the salute.
Our first stop for tires was a hot mess but not for the reasons we were prepared for – Kurt came in too hot to the pit and slid through the pit box. In the picture below you might be able to make out the pit road sign being broken off and flying through the air and the guys trying to save the air gun hose. Because Kurt stalled the car while backing it up, some fuel ended up in the tailpipes and when Kurt restarted the car it produced a giant blow torch and was right when our new rear tire changer was just getting to work. Luckily he and Larry, our rear tire carrier, managed to avoid being toasted and were both fine. Thankfully the stop was under yellow and we had our dancing partner with us on pit road anyway (the #78).
Speaking of the pit stops – the Double Deuce ran into trouble later in the race with a hole in the grill that needed patching. We started with some sticky tape (the first piece they pulled off got stuck to the lamppost in our pit stall and is probably still there) to cover it and that is all we would usually use but because of the new drafting style Kurt was yelling on the radio about how we were going to get stuck to the #78 and needed something slicker on there.
So the guys pop riveted a piece of aluminum on there so Kurt could continue to slide the bumper. He noted later in the race that his bumper was really chewing up who ever he was drafting with as a result but that was about all the guys had to work with.
We had one more problem later in the race when we cut a tire – luckily Addington and Kurt were all over coming right into the pit and getting it changed so it didn’t cause any damage to the body. Our pit crew was one of the only ones to fix things and keep their driver in the running…yet I noticed today they aren’t even an option for the best pit crew voting on FOX. Boo!
In keeping with tradition on this blog I had to get a picture of lunch in the pits. Since we lost Travis who usually posed for me I had to sneak a shot of Jeffrey, our car chief, snacking on some grapes while he sat on the pit wall. The rest of the menu included beef jerky and Pringles. I cannot believe these guys can perform they way they do fueled by junk food!
Our pit was really a good spot this weekend for men in uniform. We had the true young gun pilots of the Thunderbirds hanging out most of the race. They were so impressed with the racing, I kinda found that funny given they fly just as close together as the drivers race and go about 10x faster! They were certainly fun to look at though!
While Dave, our front tire carrier, tried cozying up to the officials, Kurt and our spotter Chris, aka “The Voice of Victory” were trying to find a dancing partner in the final laps.
Everyone Kurt had worked with had wrecked by the final laps of the race and Chris was searching for a partner when over the radio came a familiar voice…Kyle said, “hey bro I heard you need a drafting partner…I’ll push you.” There was a pause and the crew waited for Kurt’s reply which was “I guess we still share the same mother…if you get me to the checkers I’ll buy you an ice cream” Crack up! They then strategized and Kurt asked Kyle, “not getting ahead of ourselves but what are you going to do in turn 4?” Kyle replied something along the lines of “we’ll deal with it when it happens…” aka I’ll pass ya or wreck ya! Roger then got on the radio and said, “if you boys behave I’ll take you both to ice cream!” We never found out because Kyle cut a tire in the first GWC and we got stuck in the final round with “he is Juan!” When Kurt found out who Chris had hooked him up with his first response was “where is the #1?” Not thrilled to say the least.
At this point I was nearly peeing my pants because everyone in our pit knew if Kurt had a pusher stay on his bumper we were going 3 for 3. Juan Pablo either couldn’t keep up with the Penske powerhouse or got sucked off the car by the others passing or just isn’t as talented as people think…whatever, our chances for the win faded when Juan fell back just a few feet. Kurt was VERY hard on himself for not jumping in front of Edwards but God knows with the #99 record at restrictor plate wrecking (oops I mean racing) I wouldn’t have done it either. Kurt did go to Victory Lane to congratulate Trevor Bayne with the sting of knowing another 500 was within his grasp. He’ll get it and I hope to be there!
Congrats to the rookie!