What could be better than a warm and sunny California Saturday spent at a NASCAR race? Not much can beat it. However, when you add a NASCAR VIP experience to your day, it is guaranteed that you will drive home tired but smiling.
NASCAR Race Mom (NRM) along with husband Paul were treated to a NASCAR VIP Experience for the Drive4Clots.com 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway. Race morning arrived early and found us in front of the Credential Office before 7:00 a.m.
We had to get there early because our schedule started with a 7:30 a.m. pace car ride with Carl Edwards. I definitely did not want to be late for that!
Pace Car Ride With NASCAR’s Carl Edwards
(Please excuse the low audio)
(Please excuse the low audio)
The one-lap pace car ride around Auto Club Speedway was both informative and exhilarating. NASCAR Driver, Carl Edwards, could not have been more accommodating. We were in good hands for the wild ride that included a jolting simulated pit stop; Edwards took the checkered flag to win the Auto Club 500 in 2008. The view of the blue wall from inside the pace car also offered a thought-provoking perspective of a driver’s job.
|Amanda - Our Track Guide|
Next, we were escorted to a press conference in the Media Center by our track guide. Amanda has worked for NASCAR for five years and describes herself as “a southern girl living her dream job.”
Casey Mears fielded questions serenely with expertise. Mears’ dialogue featured the new 2015 rule package and working with the Richard Childress Racing alliance.
Question: You Have Three Top-20 Finishes In The First Four Races. Did You Have Any Expectations Early In The Season For 2015?
“I think we all have lofty goals. We know we’ve got good equipment. We’ve got a good group of guys. So, we all want Top Five’s and Top Ten’s, but I think we kind of told ourselves that if we could be consistent inside the Top Ten or Top Fifteen, the first part of this year and establish a good base, we’d be pretty happy with that. But, now that we’ve seen the pace that we’re capable of running part of this year, we’re slightly disappointed with some of our results.
“We had a really good car in Vegas and the first run we took two tires, and it just didn’t work out for us and we went a lap down and it ended up being one of those races where you could never get a lap back. And we had a car that was very fast once we made a couple of adjustments and got it tightened-up. We only feel like we came short on that one a little bit. In Phoenix, we had a very fast race car again; Top Ten easily. The first run we were flying through the field and after the first pit stop the right rear spring came out of the bucket and we didn’t know until after the race. And it made the car massively loose.
“So, I think our goals were very conservative to start the year, but now that we’ve seen what we’re capable of and how fast we have been able to run, I think internally our goals are getting a lot higher. But I think we’ve just got to kind of stick to what we’re trying to do. In this series, if you can be a Top Fifteen or Top Twenty guy, week in and week out, you’re going to be in a good position coming into the season. And one thing I’m noticing too, is that if you’re inside the Top Fifteen, you’re running lap times that are capable of anywhere from Fifth to Fifteenth, to be honest. If you’re a Top Fifteen guy, you’re a call away from being a Top Five guy. And so, we just continue to really focus to be Top Fifteen and with being Top Fifteen, you’ve got opportunities to finish way higher than that. So, that’s been our goal and we’re going to kind of stick to that and see how it goes.”
Casey, who is from Bakersfield, California started the race in thirty-seventh position and finished in twenty-third place. He is ranked twelfth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
|Richard Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Managing Director|
The Laser Inspection tour, led by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck, proved to be our favorite event of the VIP Experience. (Yes even more than the pace car ride – we are nerdy that way)
Buck has worked as a crew chief, team manager and director of operations with open-wheel racing teams from 1980-2000. Prior to joining NASCAR in January 2005, he also worked with teams in all three NASCAR national series. Therefore, he has a deep and unique knowledge of motorsports that serves NASCAR well.
“In my opinion the competitiveness of the season’s end last year is the level of intensity of the start of this season. The drivers do not want the teams to leave anything on the table. They have less down force, less horse power, there are changes in the mechanical and aerogrip . . . . they are pushing the limits and we are able to measure that. When a crew chief adjust something it effects multiple points of the car – it is a dynamic organic beast really.”
When asked about the cost of the new technology, Richard Buck replied “six figures” with a smile. NASCAR has worked very closely with Microsoft and Rockwell Automation on this program. It was a sight to see up close. Buck added that what is best for the competitors is that the machine eliminates judgement calls. You just push a button and provide the report to the team, importantly insuring that everyone is handled the same.
|Dillon Brothers at the Driver's Meeting|
We were then whisked way to attend the XFINITY Driver’s Meeting. The room filled up quickly with the drivers we would soon be cheering for on the track. We were very familiar with several of the young men as they raced with our son in the K&N Pro Series a few years earlier.
|Bubba Wallace & Clyde Elliott|
Before Driver Intros
Paul and I also enjoyed watching the pre-race ceremony and driver’s introductions from the track.
It is hard to stand on the 11 degree track banking.
We had a great view of the race from our seat at the very top of the grandstands. We could see and hear everything. Nevertheless, the Drive4Clots.com 300 XFINITY race itself surfaced as a tad anticlimactic after our remarkable NASCAR morning.
While it was fun to watch west coast alumni Kevin Harvick win; NASCAR Race Mom was hoping for a victory by a XFINITY series driver, or newcomer such as pole winner Erik Jones. Also a bit tighter racing and passing would have provided more gratification. The crowd was not even treated to a burnout by the race winner.
More Sights from Auto Club Speedway:
|Smiling "Cousin Carl" Was A Great Pace Car Driver!|
|New Dad, Kyle Larson Prepares For Practice|
|Dale Jr. Observes As His Crew Preps His Car For Practice|
|Check Out These Goodyears, The Official Tire Of NASCAR|
|Time For A Quick Snack|
|XFINITY Race Winner's Cup Ride (love the two winner stickers!)|
|Enjoyed Our Walk Down Hauler Row|
|Pre-Race Ceremonies On A Perfect California Saturday|
|Despite A Throttle Issue, Blake Koch Managed A Top-Twenty Finish|
|Fontana's Tribute To Retiring NASCAR Driver – Jeff Gordon|
As Paul and I found our car after the race, my Fitbit informed me that we had walked over eight miles. They were happy miles for these NASCAR Fans. If you get the opportunity to participate in a NASCAR VIP experience, do not pass it up!