I woke up at 5am in order to get to Infineon Raceway by 7am (with a quick stop at Starbucks along the way) at the latest. I wanted to make sure I got a ride around the track in the pace car with NASCAR’s Brett Bodine. You think because you’re going in the pace car it wouldn’t be intense, but you’re WRONG. I sat in the back seat and proceeded to be bounced around the my seat and fellow passenger next to me.

While I did remember to bring my cell phone and completely charged camera I couldn’t take a picture during the ride. I was too busy holding onto the door. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t flipped over. We only went around once and I wish we could have gone twice because as Brett drives around he tells you where the drivers are breaking, where the track is the fastest and I think if I had done it again I might have remembered more of it.

After that I killed some time in the garage and then headed to Jeff Gluck’s tweetup that was being held right next to Victory Lane. Over in VL I noticed two actors hanging out with Joey Logano. Kim Coates (from Sons of Anarchy on FX) and William Fichtner (He was in Black Hawk Down and had a recurring role as Phil Yagoda on HBO’s Entourage) were VIP guests of Toyota for the race, so it made sense they’d be chatting with a Toyota driver.

Kristen and fellow blogger Terry, who is a Australian and a Marcos Ambrose fan, showed up. At one point we were in a conversation with Gluck about Kurt Busch and his marriage because a fan brought it up. We got to hear a preview of what would later become his article/post about the NASCAR media and their lack of coverage of Kurt’s new woman and the dissolution of his marriage. I only take issue with the fact that everybody’s acting like this whole “oh, Kurt’s kissing a woman that’s not his wife” thing started at Infineon. It started at Pocono! But, whatever. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter.
Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose showed up for 2 minutes to say hello. He seemed defensive and tense and it wasn’t fun.

After that we, Kristen, Terry and I were standing around talking with another fan. Kristen mentioned my blog and the woman knew the blog and said that she knew me. She mentioned My NASCAR Year 2012 project and was all “You’re going!” I was like “Are you Kim??” and she was! We hugged and I started crying. See, Kim is one of the people that’s donated so far. Everyone that was still at the tweetup turned and looked at us like “What is going on??” It was funny. I’m just so grateful and it was awesome to get to meet her in person. To be fair, I love all of you guys that read this blog all the time and enjoy it. Seriously, you make me feel like I’m not alone in my opinions. 🙂

Afer the emotional tweetup I went over to Jeff Gordon’s Q&A session to say “hi” to Keri. It was yet another cool fan event where people got to ask Jeff questions. “Cars 2” director John Lasseter (Am I the only person that when they hear his last name they instantly think of the detective Lassie from the USA show Psych?) joined Jeff on stage along with Infineon Raceway president Steve Page. Jeff told us how Lasseter had given his daughter Ella a Disney princess dress for her 4th birthday that week. It was a replica of the Rupunzel dress from “Tangled.”

Right after that was the drivers meeting, or as I like to call it “the sauna.” It was so warm in that room with like 100 people inside of it all packed together. I wished I could tell everyone that I really had put deodorant on that morning, because I had, but it was quickly evaporating the longer I stood in that room. Nothing monumental usually happens in the drivers meeting, but it’s fun to just be there. Plus you find out what celebs & big wigs are on hand, the one that stuck out in my mind was Chad Hurley, one of the founders of YouTube. I wanted to find him after the meeting and ask him to sponsor me. 🙂

It takes them forever just to introduce who all is there and then they play the video explaining pit road speeds and safe places to get off the track if they have a problem. Then they open it up for questions and there were a bunch this time. It seemed that they wanted clarification on what to do under caution if one guy pits and you don’t, how they line up again. It seemed like it stemmed from the crazy Road America Nationwide race the day before. The whole maintaining a cautious speed thing and all that.

It was cool that they were asking questions but it was so friggin warm in that room that all I wanted to do was to get out. As soon as the meeting was over I found Kristen pulling the tool car for the #22 crew as they walked their car through inspection. This has become a tradition for us, me tagging along as they go through inspection, chatting with Kristen the whole time. It’s fun to people watch and watch the crew guys people watch. If there’s one thing I can say about crew guys they notice everything and everyone. Including this group of women walking around who were all dressed up for something that wasn’t a race at a dirty grimy racetrack. One of ’em was tall and blonde with the biggest boobs on display. At the time I didn’t think much of them, I wasn’t trying to judge, but later during the race I overheard them in the ladies bathroom talking about one of the crew guys on Joey Logano’s team and how they hoped that they’d see him later. They were so clearly and obviously on the prowl it was almost a cliche. They used the bathroom as their own personal dressing room, with boots on the floor, changing shoes and checking their hair & makeup. Gag me.

Right after inspection I went out to pit road following after Kristen and the team as they pushed their car to their starting position. I love the way the cars were lined up, all in a row facing out. It’s cool.

Ron Malec (far right) and the #48 crewI hung out there until after the anthem with Jessica, a young woman from Napa who was covering the race for the first time for a local newspaper. There was a weird moment when we were standing in front of the #22 and watched as the crew for the #48 pushed their car into line. I was, of course, trying to get another obligatory Ron Malec photo when I noticed that he and the guy next to him were laughing and looking at me and Jessica. I have NO IDEA WHY they were doing that and it bothers me. I know my fly wasn’t down. There was nothing wrong with either of us, so it just bugs be that I don’t know what that was all about. The photo at left, shows them seconds after it happened, still smiling. Grr! What was that?

Anyway, I got some good shots of drivers as they passed by on trucks but couldn’t get much during the invocation and National Anthem because there were a ton of people on pit road. It feels like the crowd becomes larger and larger each year.

Post pre-race festivities we got lunch and then the race started. I watched most of it from the media center. I just happened to be leaving the ladies room when I noticed the crowd around Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s stall in the garage. So I went in and got some shots of him as he talked to the gathered media about why he was out of the race.

My view from the media center overlooked turn 11, which was where all the craziness was happening, so I got to watch Tony Stewart’s crazy crash as it happened. It was insane. I ran downstairs to try and get a shot of his car, but didn’t get anything good ’cause I didn’t feel like running down pit road to be closer. It was kind of scary because he didn’t get out of the car and I couldn’t hear anything that was being said on TV, so you didn’t know if he was OK or not. But he was and his crumpled up car rolled past those of us that had gathered in the #88’s empty pit stall.

When Kurt Busch won the race I was so happy for Kristen! I knew she’d have an awesome time in Victory Lane. And she definitely did. You’ve gotta check out her blog for her story on the win, and some photos of her and Kurt in VL. It’s great stuff.

I stood in on the post-race press conference with the second and third place finishers, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. When I walked in Carl was on his cell phone, which I thought was weird. The best part was when Ella, Jeff’s 4-year-old daughter, came in carried by her grandfather. Jeff waved at her and then she got down from her grandfather’s arms and went up to the stage to sit on her father’s lap as he answered questions from the media. It was too cute!

I hung around for Kurt Busch’s presser too, but nothing monumental happened there. That was pretty much it. 🙂

Actors Kim Coates (left) and William Fichtner (right)

Actors Kim Coates (left) and William Fichtner (right)

Jeff Gordon at his Q&A session

Jeff Gordon at his Q&A session

Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski at the driver's meeting

Crew chief for the #22 Steve Addington.

Crew chief for the #22, Steve Addington. I asked him if I could take the photo since it would have been really obvious otherwise. 🙂

Kristen and I on pit road before the start of the race!

Kristen and I on pit road before the start of the race!

Tony Stewart

I inadvertently took a shot of Tony Stewart's butt. You're welcome.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Smiley (& smurfy) Juan Pablo Montoya

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the garage after a really early end to his day.

Kurt Busch rolls into victory lane

Kurt Busch rolls into Victory Lane at Infineon

Chandra Johnson

Chandra Johnson

Jeff Gordon and his daughter, Ella

Jeff Gordon and his daughter, Ella