There is an old saying that goes something like this; "If you can't hang with the big dogs, stay up on the porch!"
Well last Saturday I got, what I think was, the opportunity of a lifetime, to "hang with the big dogs"!
I have been a race fan for most of my 63 years. As a young child, maybe 5 or 6 years old, my older brothers would take me to take to our local short-track, Kearney Bowl, every Friday night for the Hardtops/Jalopy races. As I got into Jr. High and High School those races morphed into the super modified races with the offset engines. They were literally rockets on wheels!
I was hooked!
Let's fast-forward to my semi-old age!
When NASCAR decided to come back out West, they used to race at the now defunct Riverside International Raceway in the 60's through 1988. I decided that I wanted to go, and became season ticket holders for both Las Vegas and Auto Club Speedway. I have since dropped the Auto Club Speedway tickets.
Because of my love for auto racing, I bought up a few domain names a couple of years ago, and began to blog and write about racing, in general, and NASCAR in particular. Back in the beginning of the summer an internet friend of mine, Bruce Simmons, asked me if I would be interested in contributing posts to a web site that was run by a friend of his? I mulled it over for a day or so and thought that this would be an excellent idea, and another way to grow my own web site. So I agreed, and Bruce being a "matchmaker", got me together with Charlie Turner and the Bench Racing On Pit Row staff!
This past weekend On Pit Row arranged for me to get press credentials for the stand alone weekend Camping World Truck races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Never having done this before, I was not sure what to expect from NASCAR, and SMI (aka Bruton Smith), the track owner.
I picked up my credentials on Thursday morning at the track. Unfortunately for me, the two ladies that handed out the credentials did not have all the info regarding when I should arrive, any safety meeting time, etc. So I thought that I would arrive about fifteen minutes before the trucks take to the track, 8:45 am, and everything will be good. Well, I was naively wrong!
What I found out was that, because I missed the 8:30 am briefing, I was not issued a yellow vest! I have the credentials to move about semi-freely, but no yellow vest. I was caught up in my first NASCAR quandary!
The lady in charge of the yellow vests told me that I could not get the vest until I attend the briefing.....the next briefing was at 5:30 pm! However, she gave me some sage advice, just act like you know what you are doing and you, most likely, will get to where you want to go!
So for the morning practice sessions and the qualifying session, I did just that. I walked around the garage area and pit road like I was Bruton Smith, sans money!
First point of business when leaving the media room was to get down to the garages and then out to pit road.
As I get through the layers of security and turned the corner of the NASCAR inspection area, the very first people that I had contact with were three of the FOX Sports 1 reporters/announcers, Phil Parsons, Ray Dunlap, and Adam Alexander. These are THE TV DUDES that we all have established a vicarious relationship with for the past decade. Time to do a real quick reality check! Yep, I am really here!
Well, I got my focus back, moved on down the garage line, and began to check out all the action that was going on in those garages. There was a flurry of activity in each and every garage stall. Each team was a buzzing hive of crewmembers every time the truck would come back from a few laps of "trial and error" hot laps/practice. It was very interesting to watch the crewmenbers swarm the truck as soon as the truck pulled back into the garage stall.
Another interesting phenomena associated with the garage area was how fast the trucks move to and fro from the garage area to pit road, and vice versa! When you are meandering through the garage area, it is imperative to "keep your head on a fast moving swivel" to keep from becoming "a hood ornament" on the front of the trucks! It is quite remarkable that nobody gets hurt each weekend in the garage area with the amount of activity that congregates in such a confined area!
Having said all that, it is very cool to stroll through the garage area, see all the race truck drivers that you see each week on TV, get a glimpse at some of the race team owners, see the TV reporters going from team to team gathering information, notes, and other "scoop type" knowledge, to report to the viewers when they go live on TV.
With camera in hand, I get my bearings and begin to try to write my Las Vegas Camping World Truck race story with the photos that I was about to take.
I methodically begin my walk through the garage taking pictures of the trucks and teams that I know would have shot of winning this race. The first stop was to gather a few pictures of the Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers, in particular Erik Jones. The next photos that I wanted to secure was the Thorsports Motorsports drivers, the reigning champion, Matt Crafton, and his teammate Johnny Sauter.
Additionally, I wanted to get a few shots of "Blazingly Bad" Brad Keselowski's drivers of Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick. I also wanted to get a few shots of Red Horse Racing boys, Timothy Peters, German Quiroga, and Brian Ickler.
After securing those shots, I headed out to pit road to get as many pictures of all the above teams, as well as many of the other race truck drivers.
As the day progressed, I roamed throughout both pit road and the garage area to try to get shots that I thought would be of some interest. All things went swimmingly well throughout practice and qualifying.
All the while I was anxiously awaiting the 5:30 pm briefing so that I could, at least outwardly, be part of "the fraternity" of photographers Saturday!
That long awaited 5:30 pm briefing was short and sweet. I got my yellow vest! (PS after the briefing we were all treated to a very nice dinner, courtesy of Bruton Smith and SMI!)
With the pre-race ceremonies about to get under way, it was really exciting to meander among, around, and through the crowd of people associated with the race teams. Am I really doing this, I kept asking myself? Again I had to answer, oh boy yes I am!
Once the race was about to get under way, I positioned myself along the pit wall next to Blaney's pit stall. I was hoping to get some really cool action photos of "the symphony in motion", better known as a pit stop!
At the first yellow flag, I indeed did get some gets shots of pit stops!
As the race progressed, I transitioned to as many pit boxes as I could, on order to get some action shots.
As the race wound down, just a couple of laps remaining, I made my way to Victory Lane. I secured my place among all the photographers, and got prepared for the victory celebration that was about to happen.
As Erik Jones drove his KBM Toyota into the celebration area, I just kept thinking; "am I really here doing this"? Again the answer was an overwhelming.......YES!
So when someone asks me what did you do last weekend? I just grin from ear-to-ear and say, "Oh, I was just taking a few pictures in Las Vegas"!
Wink, wink, grin, cackle, cackle!
So not only was I taking pictures in Las Vegas....but I was working on my redneck!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!