Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weekend Fun

I got a last minute offer to go to the “Dickies 500″ at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

I flew in Saturday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised by our accommodations, we were staying at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine Texas.

That night we had great steak and lobster dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse Restaurant, one of many at the resort. After dinner we walked across the street to The Glass Cactus Nightclub. The Molly Ringwalds, an 80’s cover band was playing, they were below average and I was very tired so I didn’t stay long.

I woke up Sunday to an overcast morning, the National Weather Service website showed a 70% chance of rain for the entire day, not good for a NASCAR race. Fortunately Texas Motor Speedway has lights for night racing which would give them that much more time to get the race in if it did rain.

It took us a little over an hour to get to the track and another 45 minutes to get our VIP passes and into the suite. The Bombardier suite was awesome, it had a max capacity of 68 people and was just past the start finish line on the front stretch. We had good food, our own bartender, some nice gift packs and “Racing Radios” scanners to use.

The picture does it no justice, it was huge and with the windows canted out at the top it gave the illusion of leaning out over the track. With glass walls dividing the suites there were very few blind spots when sitting towards the back of the suite. We were running a little behind schedule so the people assigned to the suite quickly hustled us out of the room for a pit tour.

I was really excited about the pit tour, I’ve been to a lot of NASCAR races but never had access to the pits. Our guide took us past hundreds of people standing in line to go through the small tunnel to the infield and at the tunnel entrance told us to merge in to line. This probably saved us a good hour of standing in line and once through the tunnel you immediately were able to see the hour long line you would be standing in to get back.

On the infield side we had an ESPN journalist waiting to give us the pit tour. While I’m sure it was interesting it was basically NASCAR 101, so I didn’t hang with the group very long. Because we were running late we had arrived at the infield about 10 minutes before the start of the drivers meeting, thus the chances of seeing one were pretty much nil, so I headed off to find JR’s pit area.

After getting pictures of JR’s pit area I made my way back up pit lane towards where his and Jimmies cars were parked in line. I tried for a good ten minutes to get a clean picture of each from behind the pit boxes, but there were constant crowds around each car on pit lane. One of the people in my group came up and asked what I was doing, then explained to me we were allowed on pit lane as well. After climbing over the wall it was much easier to get a nice shot of both cars.

I quickly got tired of dealing with the shear amount of people and all the fun things that go along with large crowds, so I snapped a couple quick pictures up and down pit lane before I headed back for the hour wait to go back through the tunnel.

After getting back to the tunnel line, I found out that it was closed the direction I wanted to go and wouldn’t open for another thirty minutes, so I put my camera away and two minutes later the Grand Marshals of the race, ZZ Top, drove by on their golf carts. So of course I didn’t have time to get the camera out of the bag to get a picture of them while they were four feet away. Once I was back in the suite I set up a soda can tripod, hit max zoom and got a shot of them on stage. They played for about an hour as the sun started peaking out from the rain clouds.

After the pre-race festivities and the track was cleared a CH-47 Chinook flew by right in front of the suite and touched down on the end of the track. As it was landing the aft loading ramp was coming down and out drove the 2010 Camaro Pace Car for the race. It was very cool and got a great reaction from the crowd. The dropoff happened very quickly and due to where I was sitting and the angle of the glass I was not able to get very good pictures of the drop.

I am not going to go into the details of the race itself, it was actually a very good race. nothing like the yawnfest last week at Talladega. I was very impressed with the traffic control after the race and the ease with which we were able to leave. It was a great overall experience and I look forward to the chance to do it again…. must drive to Phoenix this weekend…. must drive to Phoenix this weekend.

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