I’m not going to lie when I think of NASCAR, I think of that sport of cars just going in a circle for 200 or more laps, or I think of the move CARS with that line “left turn, left turn, left turn”. It was a sport that while it looks exciting watching cars go fast on TV, I couldn’t see how you could sit there and watch a whole race on TV (with commercials) let alone in person. But ya know….nah it is a sport where cars are just going fast in a circle for laps on end, but being there in person is an experience one has to try! I got the chance to do so when I took a trip to Las Vegas for the SouthPoint 400 accompanying the team at Autotrader.com who was sponsoring Team Penske. I will say, it made for a great weekend!
Touchdown to Practice Day
I arrived in Las Vegas on a Friday night after a really decent flight out of Stewart International Airport (loved that this airport is about 6 minutes from where I live), and arrived in the late evening. Friday night was mainly just arriving and checking into the Aria hotel. First time staying there and it is a really nice hotel, they even had a tablet in there that control the different aspects of the room. As a tech geek, I was tickled by this. A quick bite to eat and I was done for the night after a long day.
Saturday morning we had an early start at I think it was 7 or 8am (wasn’t thrilled about that haha, as I like to sleep in some on the weekends), grabbed a quick breakfast and we headed to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was the first time I had been there and really the first time in this area of Las Vegas. The team at Autotrader hooked me up with VIP access and a Hot Pass which allowed you to go pretty much anywhere you wanted to go. I’m talking in the crew garage, on the track (when they wasn’t driving), pit row, and more. If there is ever a way you want to experience a NASCAR race, it is VIP status and at least with a Hot Pass! On the Saturday it was the last practice day before the race on Sunday and I got to see some of the cars do some laps as they made last-minute adjustments to the car beforehand. Now this is the part of the NASCAR experience you don’t typically see. While the driver has to be skilled to do his thing, the crew who looks at all the data and fine tunes based off this, helps that car perform at its best. I got the chance to speak with a few crew members and look at the data they watch as the car performs.
I ended Saturday learning a few things that I never knew. For one the cars aren’t designed to move slow. While we was in the garage area, you always had to be mindful where you were, when a car came out, it took off fast as it headed to the track to so a few practice laps. Speed is the word here. Since the cars aren’t designed to sit idle, you’ll often see the car speed up to the garage entrance cut the engine and see a few crew members push it in. Another interesting note I learn right from Brad Keselowski (remember this name for later) who drives for Team Penske and was driving the #2 Ford car in the race. While it is good for a driver to be in shape, you don’t want to be too in shape. During a race due to the heat inside the car, and especially on a hot day like it was on Sunday in Las Vegas, a driver can lose kind a few pounds during a race. As Brad mention, if you have too many abs, you have enough to lose and could make for a situation. So looking to lose a few pounds? Knock out a NASCAR race here and there to drop some weight!
Sunday morning was another early start, but the excitement for race day had everyone amped and right. When we arrived at the track, this time we was able to go to Pit row and see how each team set up their mobile command posts and prepare for the race. All the cars and drivers for the day’s race started to line up on the track and allow those fan with VIP access or Hot Pass to come into the track, snap a shot with their favorite driver and it was a sight to see. I learned at this time, that the area where the cars pull in to swap tires, do work done or adjustments is highly sticky, like almost tar like even though it doesn’t look like it. Once all the fanfare concluded, it was time to start the engines. Man oh man, to be at track level when this happens, is deafening to say the least. The roar of the engines is both unnerving and exciting at the same time. You’ll want to ear plugs if you value your hearing haha.
Now although I’ve watched a race or two on TV here and there, the one aspect of watching the race that I didn’t know about was the headphones you could buy while watching the race. These headphones attached to a little radio allows you to hear the crew chief talk to the driver during the race. This changes the experience! In this cars there is no rear-view mirror. As you as speeding down the track, the constant communication between the crew chief and the drive bring home the fact that it isn’t just the driver, it isn’t just the pit crew, but a complete team that wins the race. As the race goes on the crew chief lets the drive know who is immediately behind him, whose coming up, and who he is close to overtaking. He makes suggestions on which line to take as the driver comes out a curve and listens as the driver informs him on how the car is handling and if there are any issues. You can hear their strategy at the start of the race and as you draw towards the end.
Autotrader Gave Me The Full Experience
As if perfectly planned for this weekend, the driver I mentioned earlier Brad Keselowski driving the new #2 Ford car wrapped in the Autotrader logo came in first for the SouthPoint 400. During the end I found myself with Team Penske and the Autotrader group biting my nails as Brad Keselowski had to hold on to the lead after restart after restart due to crashes. In the end, he came out victorious and I was able to be right there in the winner’s circle celebrating with the crew! Talk about an exciting and amazing first experience at a live race! I definitely have to take thank you to Autotrader, COX Automotive group, Team Penske, Brad Keselowski, and most definitely Nichole for hosting me for that weekend! Thrilling experience and I definitely learned a lot about the sport!
Autotrader.com is an online marketplace for car shoppers and sellers. It aggregates millions of new, used, and certified second-hand cars from thousands of dealers and private sellers. It can search for cars through many categories; these categories are the make and model of the car, the price range for the car, the style of car, the type of drive, type of engine, color of the car, color and kind of the interior, mileage, and the number of doors. The site also provides users with automotive reviews, shopping advice, and comparison tools for car financing and insurance information.[Wikipedia]