Track walk at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600

Track walk at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600
Track walk at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway!

Legends car (the YL is for Young Lions)
This past week I decided to take the boys to Charlotte Motor Speedway for one of their Summer Shootout race nights. I have to admit, we were total noobs when it came to this event. I didn't know the difference between a Legends car or a Bandolero, nor did I know the differences in the ages and how young these drivers can be to participate! No worries to you fellow Newbies, I have that information below.

For the legends car (from the website)
"The Masters Division features drivers 40 years and older. The Semi-Pro Division is the novice class, featuring the drivers that are new to the sport or have been inactive in other forms of racing for a while. Then there is the Young Lions Division which is designated for the drivers between the ages of 12 and 16. Since the car stays the same from division to division, it is the driver that makes the difference!"

The Bandoleros are generally for the younger drivers, who can be as young as eight years old!!! (My 7 year old son got a kick out of that!) They start with beginner bandits, bandits, then outlaws.
Austin even let Caspian in his Legends car!

The boys with Austin Langenstein! 
Every shootout event, they have some sort of super strange race, like the night we were there all of the local mascots had a go-kart race and the previous week was a bus race with drivers who were principals of local schools.   Charlotte Motor Speedway does a great job with their kid zones, again with the tattoos that my boys love, the bounce houses, video games, and some promotional tents with giveaways. 

Legends Pro Driver Steven Cantrell! 
Just hanging in the garage!
We were privileged to get a tour of the garage from Motor Racing Outreach's own Scott Gentry and he introduced the boys and me to a couple drivers. The atmosphere in the garage was very laid back and it was interesting to see how the teams were working together to fix their cars (there had been a wreck just minutes before we entered the garage.) Everyone was super friendly and appreciative of the fan support.
Overall it was a great experience...what a great night of racing!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The "TURN 4 boys" at the Coca-Cola 600!!!

I have always been a deal hunter, maybe even an amateur picker of sorts, so when I find value in something that's seemingly value-less I have to put it on a pedestal for all to see. In this case, it's turn four seating at Charlotte Motor Speedway. These are some of the cheapest seats in the whole track, but we love them. Why you ask? Of course, I'm going to tell you.

First, as said before, these are very economical seats. One of the driving forces for why these seats are so cheap is that the end of the section is labeled as "no alcohol" and it is strictly enforced. During the Coca-Cola weekend they even had troops stationed at these sections checking coolers for contraband. Of course, for some fans, alcohol is a big part of their Nascar experience and so they stray from these sections; but this is exactly what attracts me, a father of a 5 and 7 year old, to turn 4. There are less people, less craziness, cleaner bathrooms, and easier access to concessions. Who can beat that?

Secondly, turn four is the location of the kids zone. The concourse usually has a moon bounce, temporary tattoos, balloons, a radio controlled car/track, and sometimes even something extra special that is all FREE for the kids. This year they had a crew from Radio Disney that kept the young crowd entertained.  This kids zone opens up in the afternoon and runs deep into the race. The boys played here off and on for the whole race and is one of their favorite experiences of our entire weekend.

I have sat in many places in this speedway, but there's something about the wind generated by the cars while sitting there at the end of turn four that is unparalleled in any other seat. For the first few laps after a restart, the wind would literally knock you over if you don't brace yourself. We were about ten rows up and couldn't help laughing as we'd lean on each other (to the right obviously) as the cars shot by. It always made restarts even more entertaining than they already are!

Some people don't realize this, but there is a super-wide landing at the top of turn four. My boys love to walk up there at least once during the race and see if we can find our camper out in the turn four campground and get a crazy picture with the lit-up speedway in the background. It's a great spot that every spectator should visit at least once while at the speedway.

As for negatives for turn four, there is no view of pit road, and the sight of the huge HDTV is somewhat at an angle, but it is definitely still viewable. For us, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and so, for the time being, we will be "turn 4 boys."

Another blog on turn 4 camping and Nascar as "family friendly" here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Track Walk before the Coca Cola 600

Danica Speaks to the Crowd
Every time we plan on attending a race, we always try to do something a little different that we've never done before. This time we decided to do the track-walk on the Friday before the week's two races. There were supposed to be some driver appearances, a concert, and free Coca-Cola refreshment! At first, I thought it'd be a great idea, and the boys were gung-ho about walking the track, but then I realized that it was a 1.5 mile track. This was not going to be a cake-walk with a 5 and 7 year old kids. 
Bubba Wallace
and Elliot Sadler

We got there just before the walk began, and joined the group of a few hundred. They had a Coca-Cola truck on the track with an emcee who had access to quite a few t-shirts to throw. He also interviewed the drivers as they appeared from the innards of the truck. As we leisurely walked around the track, we heard from Danica Patrick, Bubba Wallace, Elliot Sadler, and yes, my favorite driver Smoke was present. While they did a good job keeping the crowd away from the drivers, it was still great to hear from them and get a few photos as they spoke. Bubba and Elliot were kind enough to sign some autographs and get photos with some of their fans. This made the walk go by so fast- before we knew it, we were in turn three!

We've actually driven the track in my 2004 Astrovan before (see here), but the boys were really surprised how steep the banking was on the track. Once we'd gotten to turn 4, the boys and I ventured up to the top of the track. One of them dropped their water bottle and it quickly rolled to the bottom spraying all of it's water as it hit the interior wall, and thankfully, missing the other walkers as it rolled by.

After the walk, the people at Coca-Cola had tubs full of all sorts of Coke products for the walkers to enjoy, games to play, as well as freebies to hand out. The boys and I sat on the green grass right outside of pit road and enjoyed our drinks and the concert. 

Picture Scavenger Hunt at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca Cola 600 weekend!

This weekend my boys and I decided to do something a little different at Charlotte Motor Speedway's Coca-Cola 600 weekend. We picked some people we'd like to meet (some drivers, executives at SMI, and on air personalities) and decided to try and get the boys to take a picture with them! (You can read more about it at the bottom of this blog!)  

Marcus Smith

First, we ran into Marcus Smith, President & COO at Speedway Motorsports, at the Track Walk on Friday! I was pleasantly surprised to see him walking with us over at turn 3! Who would have thought he'd be doing the track walk as well? (I'll blog about the track walk later)

Donald Hawk

Friday night we were blessed to be hanging out with some friends over at the dirt track (I will blog on that amazing experience elsewhere). I took my sons to the restroom and when I returned, there was Donald Hawk, VP at Speedway Motorsports and twitter guru, standing there speaking with modified driver Steve Park! Hawk looked shocked because he thought that I had tracked him down in the suite, when I was just as surprised as he was! We have interacted multiple times online, and it was great to finally meet him.

Matthew Dilner

We knew that Matthew Dilner, on-air personality and host of Garagecam, is never at any one place for long; he's a man on the move! We actually saw him in the grandstands at the dirt track, but didn't want to rudely leave our seats in the suite with our friends. So we were thankful to see him outside the media center walking briskly to his next shoot! We asked nicely if we could have a pic and here he is! He apologized for having to get a picture and run, but we were more than happy with this great pic. Thanks Matthew!

Jeremy Clements

It wouldn't be a NASCAR weekend without us getting to visit the most friendly driver in the sport: Jeremy Clements. He's always been so gracious to my boys, even when he is having problems with his car. Here was right after qualifying, and Jeremy took the initiative to walk over and talk to us. What a GREAT guy!  He really is the fans man! #thefansman 

Sam Bass

Both of my sons are budding artists, and we'd never had a chance to see Sam Bass' museum right next to the track, so we added him to our list! We stopped by on Saturday afternoon and Sam was there signing autographs! He even gave the boys a couple matchbox cars and signed them as well! The museum was amazingly well done, not only highlighting Sam's talents as a Nascar Artist, but also museum quality pieces of Nascar history. I don't know why we'd never stopped by before. If you ever come to a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, this is a must-see visit!

Brad Keselowski signed hat!

The highlight of the weekend was running into Brad Keslowski on pit road on Saturday. Yes, he was on our "scavenger hunt list" but so was Dale Jr and a few other "long-shots."  While on pit road, I looked over and saw someone being dropped off from a golf cart. It was Brad. My son instantly thought to get his hat signed and asked Brad who gestured to Thaddeus and said "walk with me." I fumbled to get out my phone but by the time I got it out Brad was gone, but my son had a huge smile!  Here's a picture of the signed hat, and we got a retweet from Brad! 

Scott Gentry from MRO

Last, but definitely not least, we got to visit with our bud Scott Gentry from Motor Racing Outreach on Saturday! While we didn't get to have a hotdog with Slawsa topping, we did get to see some great dirt track racing and enjoy pit road for a few minutes together! Great to see you again Scott!

Rick Dale

I know he wasn't on the list, but we had to mention this picture for extra measure.  I recognized Rick Dale from American Restoration, in, of all places, the restroom. I told Thaddeus, who was walking out of the restroom, that we should get a picture with him and he gave me a thumbs up. Unfortunately, my youngest was taking his time and Dale beat us out of the restroom. When I walked out with my youngest, there was Rick standing with Thaddeus. He apparently asked him to wait! Rick graciously obliged and we have this awesome picture to show for it. Thanks Rick!

If you have any suggestions for our next picture scavenger hunt, we'll add them to the list of the people we "missed" from this last one!

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway!

         We were surprised by friends with tickets to the All Star race and the boys and I couldn't have been more elated to be able to attend. This was Caspian's (5) first All Star race and he was super excited to see Kyle Busch do his thing. We've met Kyle more than any other driver (see here) , and the boys have gained an affinity for the M&M car. 

We got to the track about 5 PM, which is really late for us, and I'd encourage any first time Nascar newbs to go a little earlier, but we still got a great (free!) parking spot out by the Zmax drag way, we set up some chairs and had a little tailgate. We did a quick walkthrough of the vendor area and got our customer package from the people at Sprint (a cool camo hat!), and of course we had to stop at Toyota and see the M&M car and we met Kyle again (sorta).

Chrysler section

Thaddeus and Caspian hanging
with Kyle Busch
Our seats were over in the Chrysler grandstand, section K. It was a great spot because you have a great view of turn 3 and turn 4, where a lot of the action happens, but you also have a view of pit road.

This years race was a little different in that they had the qualifying right before the All Star Race. The qualifying was unique because the driver would take a warm up lap, a green flag lap, pit at full speed, then one more lap. The full-speed pit made it interesting because the drivers usually struggled to slow down, causing seasoned veterans like Tony Stewart to fish tail as he tried to stop, and many missed their pit stall altogether. After qualifying there was a concert by Train, and then the introductory festivities began. 

Thaddeus reads jokes to
gracious stranger
Brotherly love.

The crew at Charlotte Motor Speedway know how to put on a show. The intros were started and concluded by the singer Jake Owen, and were finished off with a fireworks show to the delight of my boys.  We were impressed with the people in our section. This part of the seating was labeled "no alcohol" and I found it very family friendly. The man next to Thaddeus was so gracious. He even tolerated the recorder Thad decided to take out and play while AC/DC's thunderstruck went across the PA system, as well as the jokes he decided to read to him during some downtime. 

 The only bad part of the race was the major wreck. The boys watched in abject horror as their hero got knocked into the wall at turn 3 and into 4.  I wish I had taken a picture of their faces at the M&M cars was dragged by us by a tow truck. Instead of their faces, I got this picture:  (no I WASN'T smiling on the inside) ;)

Kyle Busch's M&M car gets towed to the garage

Needless to say, the boys had a blast and they are looking forward to camping at this weekend's History 300 and Coca Cola 600!  This year I'm going to do a "scavenger hunt" to see how many pictures I can get the boys with Nascar celebrities/personalities. If you don't know who these people are, you probably should get to know them. I'll also put their twitter handle as well. Here's my wish list:

Marcus Smith: president & COO at Speedway Motorsports @MarcusSMI (and his wife @gassigirl88) 

Donald Hawk: VP at Speedway Motorsports @HawkSMI 

Sam Bass: Renowned Nascar Artist! (Both my boys love art!) @sambassartist

Matthew Dilner: host of Garagecam @MatthewDillner 

Jeff Gluck: Nascar reporter at USA today @jeff_gluck

Jamie Little: ESPN reporter @JamieLittleESPN

Jeremy Clements: Fav. Nationwide Driver @JClements51

Darrell Waltrip: HOF driver @AllWaltrip

Tony Stewart: SMOKE @TonyStewart

Brad Keselowski @keselowski

Dale Jr.  @DaleJr 

S/O to MRO's own Scott Gentry- we better get a picture with you and the boys eating a hotdog with Slawsa on it!!!   @SGentry_MROA

Monday, October 14, 2013

Post-race blues? Visit the race shops!

Caspian pretends to be Miles
On the Sunday following the Bank of America 500, my sons asked me, "When are we going back to the races?" I said to them, "We just went to two races in the past two days! What more do you want?" So, with my father-in-law in town, and having the day off of work on Monday, we went back up near the speedway and even over to the Huntersville and Mooresville area to check out a couple of race shops. I figured it would help us overcome the post-race doldrums.
Boys in the harness

    Of course, our first stop had to be Hendrick Motorsports. It's got an amazing museum that can only be rivaled by the Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte, but Hendrick's is FREE! The boys enjoyed strapping into the four point harness driver's chair and my father-in-law and I enjoyed looking at the historical and race winning cars that filled the museum. It's a must-see if you are near the speedway.

Joe Gibbs with the boys
Game Plan for Life
by Joe Gibbs 
Next, we had to swing by Joe Gibbs Racing. While I had already been to this shop before (as mentioned in other posts, my boys are diehard Kyle Busch fans), we had an added surprise. Joe Gibbs was in the house! After we'd already toured the shop and watched them putting on the vinyl wrap on an M&M car, we headed through the store, then back out to the front and there he was! A small line of men had formed and once to the front I asked Joe to take a quick picture with my boys. Not only did he pleasantly oblige, but he also signed books for my father-in-law and I and gave them to us. What an awesome guy!

Next, we stopped by the KBM shop (Kyle Busch Motor Sports) since we were pleasantly surprised by getting signatures from his crew at the speedway a few days prior (see here).  While we saw Bubba in the shop, there were no photo opportunities, but we did have a great discussion with the shop's manager. I found it amusing to see that around her desk were a bunch of recent trophies including the Dollar General 300 trophy Kyle had won a few days prior, and the paintball trophy he won at the paintball event where I was present (see here).  She said that she just didn't have enough display spots for all of his trophies! (It must be such a problem to have so many!)

Lastly, we stopped by Penske racing. I was very impressed by the view of the shop from their second floor terrace. I'd go so far as to say that I'd give it the "Nascar Newbs Best Shop View Award." While many shops have
the cars miles away from the spectators, and some don't even have a view of the shop, but at Penske you could see everything that the mechanics were doing to the cars. If I were a Penske mechanic I'd feel like a fish in an aquarium.

If you get the post race day blues, stop by the shops! It helps to soothe the pain of having to wait months to see another race...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bank of America 500- HOT PASS!

Jeremy chats with Caspian
          For those Nascar Newbs out there, a "hot pass" is the ticket to NASCAR heaven. This pass not only allows you to get into the pits, but also into the area right where the drivers are walking between the garage and their hauler, the inspection areas, and the garages where the teams are working. By the grace of God, my family was given these passes from a connection with SMI. These passes are not sold; these are given to the race teams,  sponsoring companies,  and well,  people that have a connection to the previously mentioned groups.  (FYI- "cold passes" can get you into the same areas- but only during certain times.)

Jeremy Clements with the family!
        We used these on both the Dollar General and the Bank of America days, but as I've argued in other places, at the Nationwide races we have much better chances of meeting drivers (see here). That day was no exception. We were pleased to get to hang out with Jeremy Clements, one of our favorite drivers and one of the most fan-friendly drivers around. (see why here) We also got to meet up-and-comer Kyle Larson. He took the initiative after an interview to walk over to my son to sign his hat. He didn't even have to ask! Lastly, Ryan Newman was walking through the garage area and he stopped to sign both of my sons' hats and had a funny discussion with my four year old.
Ryan Newman

Kyle Larson

Jimmie Johnson walking to his garage
Right before the Sprint Cup practice, we headed down into the garage area and were surprised to see almost every single driver next to their cars and having discussions with their crew chiefs and sometimes even other drivers. At one point I looked up and was shocked to see Jimmie Johnson walking right in front of me. I also enjoyed watching Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch having a conversation behind the M&M car. After a few minutes, an official pushed all the of the spectators back from the garage area and we watched as all of the cars pulled out for a practice run around the speedway.
Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon chat

On Saturday at the Bank of America 500, the crowds were crazy, and the drivers were much less accessible and available. We did see Dale Earnhardt and Brad Keslowski do an interview on pit road- and we got to watch the teams push their cars to inspection which was very interesting. We were also able to go right up to the cars right before they were taken out to the grid!
Brad and Jr. discuss the upcoming race